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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

Cal Times

The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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It’s the Season of the Sticks!

Album of the Week: “Stick Season” by Noah Kahan
Sarah Seader
CalTimes Album of the Week

This album is not your typical kind of music, but it’s the kind of music that you can actually feel, rather than just hear.  The artist responsible, Noah Kahan, was born and raised in Strafford, Vermont, where he and his family lived on a farm.  He discovered his love for music early, and has been writing music since a very young age. Kahan actually began uploading some of the music online while still in high school, which caught the attention of a record label called Republic Records, according to his biography on AllMusic.  That same label would go on to sign Kahan when he was just 20 years old, giving him the startup chance that he needed to get his career started. 

He really came to fame in 2017, when he collaborated with Julia Michaels to record his debut single, “Hurt Somebody,” which skyrocketed to the top of the charts across all genres, and opened up a world of opportunities.  He would go on to release two full albums in the coming years, his debut album coming in 2019, Busyhead, and another album called I Was/I Am, which came out in 2021.  The early success is something every artist dreams of; but for Noah, it brought a sense of hovering pressure for him to create more hit songs. This affected him in a negative way, as he talked about it in his interview with KBVR, a student-run radio station out of Oregon.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Noah suffered from writer’s block, or the inability to begin or continue writing for reasons outside of a lack of skill or commitment.  Part of this was due to the feeling of being isolated and alone considering the pandemic.  This was part of the reason why he rediscovered his love for music within a new genre, and it seems to have worked out quite well for him.  He talked about his struggles on the “The Plug with Neil Griffiths Podcast.”

This album, Stick Season, is by far his most popular and successful album yet, and for good reason.  It released on all platforms on October 14, 2022, and reached #1 in both the “U.S. Top Alternative Albums” and “U.S. Top Rock Albums” in Billboard Magazine, and is already a certified Gold album.  Each song gives a feeling of enjoyment and peace as his voice has a subtle but distinctive raspiness to it that makes his emotions heard and felt in every word he sings. His songs are about things like close-knit relationships within a small town, mental and emotional introspection, battling addiction, the consequences that come with love, and the idea of one’s own self-discovery.  His detailed lyrics make it feel as if he’s telling a story with every song, and they all feel very genuine and real. He has a tendency to reference things like his hometown, friends, family, and the changes that come along with getting older and finding himself.  I’d recommend his music for a long car ride, those days that you wake up and just don’t feel like yourself, or even when you are just sick of your old music and looking for something new, then Noah is your guy.  

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Now with all that being said, I understand how difficult it can be to take on new music sometimes, especially when it’s an album of 20 or more songs. How do you find time to listen to all of that? I can almost guarantee that you will not regret it, and you’ll find yourself listening for so long that when it ends, you’ll be sad it’s over.  

Whether it’s a heart-felt, emotional song like “Orange Juice” or “Strawberry Wine,” or a fun-filled song that you could dance to, like “She Calls Me Back,” or “All My Love,” each song is uniquely and lyrically brilliant. I am just going to highlight just 3 songs that I think are most worth giving a listen to, and what makes each song so special.

  1. “Stick Season” – This song title is basically describing a certain time of year in Vermont, where Noah grew up, that describes his town. It was the first song written by the artist for this album, hence why the song and album name are the same. It i’s a catchy tune that quickly flew to the top of the charts and continued to gain popularity as time went on. The first part of the song was originally posted on TikTok by the artist before he even finished it, and he actually admitted to almost deleting it due to his insecurities at the time.

The verses talk about how driving is a huge part of living in New England, and that one turn can lead you to a whole different life. It is about the idea of someone you love moving further and further away from you, both emotionally and physically on the road, and how that can have an effect on you.

This verse talks about how there was a person so present in your life for so long, and they have just completely forgotten about you. It gives off the feeling of a small town where you always see everyone you don’t want to see when you go out in public, since there’s not many places in their small town to go.  The people you see can represent a lot of pain for you and it can take a mental toll.

Kahan talks about his family’s disposition with depression and how he feels like it has been passed down to him through his family, and it is something that he had to learn to live with as a human being. It is the idea that we are a spitting image of what our parents went through.  This is by far the most popular song on the album and for good reason.

Kahan hints at the fact that he does not make jokes anymore because he does not get to hear her laugh afterwards. The goal of being humorous most of the time is to force positive emotion from the person you are talking to, and without this person around, he does not feel the need to be humorous anymore. The person in question once relied on him for everything, and swore to always be by his side. Now, it seems as though he is saying that she will not even contact him now. He calls, she does not answer, and does not get back to him either.  Life surely has changed.

  1. “Orange Juice”This song is a heart-wrenching story of how two friends reconcile after years of being apart.  It’s about an experience that they went through together that put them on two completely different paths, and the internal conflict they have faced because of it.

The beautiful melody in this song gives a feeling of a missing of the times. It is a nostalgic but somewhat disconnected memory of what once was so important in one’s life and just the way things change over time but the past will always be there. It is an invitation to forgiveness.

Kahan continues to use both his vocal and song-writing talents to give us a feeling of the friend’s emotion. An accident made the friend resent the town they came from.  The graves are potential fatalities from the accident that reminds them of what separated them in the first place, angering their friend and making them become more of a stranger.  His friend has prioritized religion in his life, and has lost their roots when it comes to the people they once cared deeply for.

The song also focuses on the idea of battling addiction, which makes the assumption that the accident was caused by alcohol.  Noah seems to be trying to slowly welcome them back home.  Throughout the song, he offers them the orange juice in the kitchen, so that they won’t be driven to the alcohol that played a part in the accident.  He provides them with an alternative and tries to help them forgive themselves and move forward, which can be very hard to do in situations like this.  They left their hometown and are struggling internally, while being back in the place where everything happened, not able to comprehend how life could have gone on there after.

It is a beautiful and supportive way of giving his friend all the options available to let loose and enjoy his visit.  Alcohol played a huge part in what separated the two of them, so ensuring that there will be no pressure involved would make his friend feel more comfortable and willing to grow.

  1. “Strawberry Wine” – This song is my personal favorite, and I think it might be the most emotional as well.  It’s a story about a first love, where they are not compatible in the end.  Their obsession with the idea that they can love one another, only to find out that they are not meant to be. There is nothing quite like young love, and one’s first love is something that can play a huge effect on their own ability to trust or love in an effective manner.  Sometimes what was once so joyful and sweet can become so sad and bitter, but it can always be seen as beautiful in its own way if you remember where it got you today.

Noah starts this song with a passive confrontation of what seems to be his first love.  He’s never done this “love” thing before, so he is not sure how to react.  Saying he is in love with every song she has ever heard is describing how he loves all the things that his lover experiences, simply because it has to do with her. It is reminiscent of how young, naive love is not necessarily focused on the deep connection or chemistry between the two that has grown over time, but instead just their relation to one another and the happiness that comes from being in each other’s presence.

Certain lines are repeated multiple times throughout the song. This repetition is indicative of a kind of consistent and obsessive thinking by the artist. The dark image of burying bones together suggests that both of them played a part in diminishing their love for one another, thus ending their relationship. It is also worth noting that plywood is not necessarily a strong material, as it is a kind of wood that can easily be snapped or bent a different way. This potentially leaves their relationship open for the future, as their separation might not be permanent. This lessens their pain, as if there is opportunity for the future, it will not be as hard to leave one another for now

The strawberry wine in this song is described as a sweet escape from reality that holds significant meaning to their relationship. It is resembling the idea that it is always better in the moment than it is after the fact. Noah is looking back to the past with many meaningful memories, but is now older and mature enough to realize those feelings he once had could never return, as falling in love for the first time only happens once in a lifetime. No matter how badly he wants to feel that again, it will never happen again.

These songs give the best overall description of what the album makes listeners feel, and the kind of song-writer Noah Kahan truly is. There are other songs throughout the album that are a little more upbeat and dance-worthy, but I prefer to hear music that comes straight from the heart, the kind of music you can feel more than hear. You will see much more of him going forward, as his career has just gotten started. For anyone out there struggling to find new music to listen to, look no further.

Rating: 9.5/10

Noah Kahan’s album “Stick Season” is music that offers a captivating journey through the depths of human emotion and one’s personal growth.  The album not only showcases Noah’s songwriting abilities, but also his ability to connect with his listeners on a profound level of emotional and spiritual detachment.  With its beautiful storytelling, heartfelt lyrics, and the slight blend of folk, pop, and indie genres, the album offers listeners an exclusive insight into Kahan’s world and invites them to reflect on the many areas of love, self-discovery, and the effect we have on those around us. It is a musical experience that leaves a lasting impression on its listeners, and has climbed to #1 in my book. 

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About the Contributor
Sarah Seader, Editor-in-Chief

Sarah Seader is the Editor-in-Chief and a Staff Writer for the CalTimes and a Senior Honors Student at PennWest California, pursuing two degrees in Business Administration Management and Management Information Systems with a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as a Data Science Certificate. Sarah serves as the PennWest California Student Trustee.

Sarah is involved serving on the SAI Board of Directors, President of DECA, President of Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD), Student Government Executive Board serving as Vice President, Vice President of Finance Club, Accounting Club Treasurer, and serves as the Treasurer on the Student Honors Advisory Board (SHAB).

Sarah is also a member of Women United, New Life, STAND, American Sign Language (ASL) Club, Society of Professional Journalists, Student Activities Board (SAB), Vulcan Gaming Club, President's Leadership Academy (PLA), The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), and serves as a Peer Mentor and Honors Coach.

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