Halftime Leisure

Noah Kahan’s “Northern Attitude” prepares us for earlier sunsets

October 5, 2022

Just in time for the change in the weather, Noah Kahan thaws hardened hearts with his song “Northern Attitude.” With this new single, the singer-songwriter follows up the release of his latest chart-topper from a few months prior, “Stick Season,”offering fans a second sneak peek of his upcoming album. Until Kahan plans to share the complete album on October 14th, listeners can stream “Northern Attitude” on repeat, and savor the last moments of warm sunshine. “Northern Attitude” creates the perfect backing track for solo dancing and walking in the woods, building the space needed for healing Kahan’s inner child after growing up in a physically lonely environment. 

Kahan’s first album, Busyhead (2019), chronicled self doubt through the songs “False Confidence” and “Mess” He shared how to return to a familiar, comfortable past-life. He broke down relationship anxiety with “Save Me” and ‘Hurt Somebody,” expressing long-term damage from prior heartbreak. His second full length album, however, I Was/I Am (2021) traces the journey of healing and self-discovery. Songs “Bad Luck” and “Someone Like You” relate listeners to the process of opening your heart to someone new after a difficult heartbreak, acting as a caution to love.  

Additionally, at the height of the pandemic, Kahan released an EP the whole world needed: Cape Elizabeth. Kahan recorded Cape Elizabeth in just one week, using his friend’s home studio, and shared it with listeners in May of 2020. As my favorite album, the songs have a slower tempo and discuss the anxiety around growing older. Kahan remarks that the album felt like “returning to some part of me I had left behind.”

Kahan continues this introspective path in his music with “Northern Attitude,” depicting the desolate, dark season of winter in reference to a closed heart. Kahan reflects on his experiences growing up in Vermont, filled with a sense of isolation. He begins the song with “Breathing in/ Breathing Out,” reminding himself and his listeners to approach the change in seasons—and by extension, life’s transitions—with serenity. Kahan examines self-doubt with his lyrics “You settle in/ to routine/ Where are you?/ What does it mean?” Despite feeling comfortable and satisfied at one second, one might feel they are falling short of expectations the next. When we fall short of our expectations, we fail others as well; hence “You build a boat/ You build a life/ You lose your friends/ You lose your wife.” Kahan expresses that these feelings of potential failure can hold us back from exploring new relationships. 

Kahan’s winter analogy reflects on loneliness, solitude, and eventual clarity. Listeners warm up to the idea of an open heart with the lyrics, “If the sun don’t rise/ ‘Til the summertime.” The fear of failure described in the previous verses leads to hesitation and a cold heart. Eventually, for Kahan the solitude that comes from a dark winter gives way to an awareness of his emotional walls. Seen through his lyrics “Forgive my northern attitude/ Oh, I was raised on little light,” the singer gains the self-awareness to ask for forgiveness and patience from a new person in his life.

Noah Kahan’s songs typically center self-discovery and positive change. Regardless of the type of event that prompts his songwriting, he never fails to display raw and unfiltered emotions for his fans. Personally, I relate to the short winter days coming from Anchorage, Alaska— experiencing a 10 a.m. sunrise and 3 p.m. sunset. Noah Kahan’s reference to the Sun eventually rising describes the slow process of opening yourself up to love again. In the mountains, the Sun emerges behind the hillside and hits the ocean and town below. It doesn’t reach my house for three months of the year; it begins to set before it has fully risen. Finally in late March, its light comes streaming into the kitchen around 12 p.m. and stays for a visit until 3 in the afternoon. People step out onto their porches and joyfully anticipate spring. Much of the Northeast experiences a similar winter and Noah Kahan reflects on his home state Vermont. Just as the sun warmly embraces us once again in the spring or summertime, we feel prepared to take the next step of vulnerability in a relationship. 

Kahan allows his listeners to heal their inner child through a folky, upbeat, acoustic soundtrack. The beginning of his song reflects that of a Wes Anderson film soundtrack– similar to “Mr. Fox in the Fields” from Fantastic Mr. Fox, evoking fond childhood memories. The song’s passionate, sing-along style vocals, allow all listeners a moment of awakening and pure bliss, welcoming them to take a deep breath. The instrumentals build following the verse and he begins his chorus with energy and power– ready to share his message about welcoming love regardless of past cultural conditioning. 

The “northern attitude” approaches relationships with hesitation and fear, as a result of growing up in an isolated environment. While Noah Kahan acknowledges this emotional state, he also provides a sense of hope: this attitude is simply a state of mind and it can shift with time and progress. Kahan succeeds in healing the inner child as he fuels his listeners with joy, remembrance, and individual self-awareness.

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