One year ago, when the iconic Kate Bush found fame among young audiences courtesy of Stranger Things‘ use of “Running Up That Hill,” it inspired a creative light within me. It led to a piece I wrote for We Live Entertainment that I wanted to follow up with. Frankly, I wasn’t appropriately inspired. Yet I longed for the chance to talk about music again. You know, finding a connection to great albums of the past. While many titles would have been a perfect fit for the follow-up of my deep dive into Hounds of Love, I needed to figure out what to approach next. It took hard times and long drives to Las Vegas to fall in love with one of the most moving and profound records I’ve heard in years. Noah Kahan’s Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever) is an emotionally complex and deeply moving listening experience. I found my inspiration.
A couple of months back, I was listening to my favorite Los Angeles independent radio station, 88.5. One song immediately made me smile. I mean, ear-to-ear grin, even though it’s a sad story of a man getting arrested for a DUI. The song was “Dial Drunk,” one of the catchiest tunes I’ve ever heard. I looked up the artist, and his name was Noah Kahan. It was so damn terrific that I listened to the entire album immediately. Songs like Northern Attitude, Stick Season, Orange Juice, and Dial Drunk all had me humming along instantaneously. However, my appreciation and love for this record grew even more personal as I faced challenging and emotional situations. After all, Stick Season is not simply a collection of songs to throw on a playlist. No, it’s far more compelling than that.
Over the past few months, I’ve been making trips to Las Vegas due to a challenging and personal situation. It has been heavy on my soul. Making the trek alone, with nothing but the open road ahead, has been a strange experience. It’s lonely; it’s freeing; it’s almost spiritual. Every time I made that trip – and am still making it every so often – I would put together a playlist that gave me a lot of happiness and hope. The last thing I needed was a bummer of a record that would break my heart. Yet that Dial Drunk song. It was catchy. And the one or two listens had me thinking it would be a perfect sound for the road. Listen to “The View Between Villages,” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Yet I had no idea I would connect with Stick Season and the words of this incredible musician with such a force.
The album started just outside of Pasadena, and a little before Baker is when the final note played. By the end, I was a mess of emotions. Concentrating on music has always been a plus for me on that drive – strangely, it helps keep my attention on the road. So yes, I notice the words. And my goodness, the words are f#cking beautiful. And more importantly, they are real. The songs are about people struggling. We are all trying to figure all this shit out, no matter who we are or what we believe. Whether it’s life after Covid, the division in the Country, unemployment, health, or the hell we seem to face every damn time we turn on the television. And here we are, with daily hardships trying to survive. Stick Season may be about something other than that for Noah. Going home again is a recurring theme on the record. And the idea of trying to find where you belong is sublime material for such a brilliant record.
Stick Season found its original release on October 14, 2022. Yet, I discovered this collection with the extended version for this relatively new listener to the artist—Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever), which arrived on June 9, 2023. The original release featured a deep, lovely sound that didn’t need expansion. Or did it? With fourteen tracks, Noah Kahan explored different facets of relationships (“Stick Season,” “Come Over,” “All My Love”), dealing with the challenges of sobriety with “Orange Juice” and the profoundly personal “Growing Sideways.” There is an honesty here; it’s so utterly potent.
“But I ignore things, and I move sideways
Until I forget what I felt in the first place
At the end of the day, I know there are worse ways
To Stay alive
’cause everyone’s growing and everyone’s healthy
I’m terrified that I might have never have met me
Oh, if my engine works perfect on empty
I guess I’ll drive”
The story behind the song and Noah’s experiences with addiction and therapy has undoubtedly made many of the subjects here universal. While I could offer countless examples of exceptional writing with every song on the record, it’s not even close to the same as hearing it for yourself. The original fourteen-song collection is damn near perfect. A year later, releasing an extended version may be an unnecessary cash grab that recording execs love. And if you think that would be the case with Stick Season, you’d be completely wrong. The extended version released in June has made a great album, an absolute work of timeless art. The wonderful “Dial Drunk” didn’t even drive Tik Tok fans crazy in the best of ways until the extension came out.
The seven songs added to the album include “Your Needs, My Needs,” “Dial Drunk,” “Paul Revere,” “No Complaints,” “Call Your Mom,” “You’re Gonna Go Far,” and a gloriously epic extended version of “The View Between Villages.” However, once you get to the final three songs, you may be an emotional wreck, but in an awe-inspiring way.
“Don’t let this darkness fool you
All lights turned off can be turned on
I’ll drive, I’ll drive all night
I’ll call your mom”
Noah gently reminds a loved one who has attempted to end their own life in “Call Your Mom.” This track will be challenging for many listeners, but much like the entire album, even in the darkest selection on this album, Kahan manages to bring a little light to the story. Utterly gorgeous.
“So pack up your car, put a hand on your heart
Say whatever you feel, be whatever you are
We ain’t angry at you, love
You’re the greatest thing we’ve lost”
As a parent, the beauty of a tune with a surprising sense of sadness, “You’re Gonna Go Far,” will have both those leaving home and those left behind in shambles. Yet somehow, it still feels good. And then all of it leads into the final track, one that I cannot adequately express how potent it was as I faced my journey on that long stretch of the road to Nevada. I needed to write this to thank Noah Kahan for the shockingly relatable work he has put together. It’s incredibly profound as Noah, a pop artist comparable to Ed Sheeran, convinced his record label to let him record a folk album. It paid off; this 26-year-old musician has crafted an exceptional work. It’s quickly become one of my favorite collections of all time. It’s brilliant.
Please check out Noah Kahan’s Stick Season (We’ll All Be Here Forever). It’s a personal recording with wise beyond-years lyrics, deeply profound stories of struggle and redemption, and how the songs build musically is shockingly great. Noah is playing this Friday in Los Angeles at The Greek Theatre, and I highly recommend him as his live shows appear to be an utter delight. I, unfortunately, discovered the man well after tickets went on sale, and all that is left are the official Ticketmaster overpriced resales. I won’t get into the highway robbery this company gets away with regarding unreasonable fees and pro-scalping made easy. That’s perhaps for another time. Either way, it will be an unforgettable show, and Stick Season is a remarkable record. Thanks again, Noah, for letting us into your world.