Folk-pop singer-songwriter Noah Kahan was recently nominated for the “Best New Artist” Grammy award after releasing his hit album, “Stick Season” in 2022 and an extended version in 2023. Since then, he’s collaborated with our collective idol: Hozier.
Noah Kahan has always seen Hozier as much more than just another artist, stating in his song release announcement Instagram post, “I used to sit down at the table with my guitar and just try to capture a fraction of the emotion and beauty that Hozier encapsulates in each song he writes,” referencing Hozier as “one of [his] heroes.”
After “Stick Season,” “Dial Drunk,” “You’re Gonna Go Far” by Noah Kahan and “De Selby (Part 2),” “Eat Your Young” and “All Things End” by Hozier, the father and son, as fans describe their relationship, finally released “Northern Attitude” on Nov. 10, 2023.
“Northern Attitude” is a song that reveals the desolation of northern winter and the self-doubt, solitude and somberness that it evokes. Knowing what “winter depression is,” Noah Kahan and Hozier perfectly represent this isolating, soul-crushing feeling.
Kahan begins the song with the fingerstyle playing of an acoustic guitar, an instrument that elicits soft, warm tones. However, the use of this welcoming instrument contrasts the daunting meaning of his lyrics. In the first phrases of this song, Kahan reflects upon his childhood experiences that were enveloped in moments of isolation and exclusion in Vermont.
“Breathin’ in, breathin’ out / How you been? You settled down? / How are your kids? Where are they now? / You build a boat, you build a life? / You lose your friends, you lose your wife / You settle in to routine / Where are you? What does it mean?”
We find a certain sense of contradiction and hesitation in his lyrics as he reveals the comfortability in settling down that is juxtaposed with the idea of losing a sense of sentimentality: “Your friends” and “your wife” in exchange for working for something more physical: “a boat” and “a life.”
This is a perfect resemblance of every human’s tragic flaw. What is more important? Deciding on emotion or deciding on physical value? Who’s not to say that emotion is not of value? This irrationality and hesitation to make such tough decisions are the causes of a cold, hardened heart and mind.
However, Kahan brings this fear to a new light: optimism and second chances.
“Forgive my northern attitude / Oh, I was raised on little light”
Being self-aware is an incredibly oxymoronic human trait, as self-awareness usually comes with two actions: a negative attitude which we are aware of and a hope for positive change that we can choose whether or not to act on. However, it is not to say that being oxymoronic is not necessarily bad — it can be good in its own way.
With that, Hozier introduces the second verse with his deeper, soulful voice.
“You bought some shit, you search online / You’re gettin’ lost, you’re getting high / All alone, late in life / Scared to live, scared to die”
Hozier explains the superficialness of human nature as people tend to search for regular, inefficient and unnecessary commodities to fulfill their temporary needs instead of something infinitely more valuable. This could be love or purpose — it could be anything worth a certain significance to the heart. After all, worth is not defined by the logical solutions of the mind, but the emotional compulsion of the heart.
When both Kahan and Hozier sing during the second repetition of the chorus, their duet exemplifies the universal experiences of such a winter. They persuade fans that even during periods of suppression brought on by winter, a metaphor for isolation, introspection and emotional coldness, they are not alone.
Kahan and Hozier continue this duet in the post-chorus, where they participate in the breathtaking singing of typical “ohs” and “ahs” —- a tone symbolic of the standard emotional trainwreck of personal realization. The simplicity of the “ohs” and the” ahs” encapsulate the journey of self-awareness and the escape of the desolate northern winter.
From Connecticut to California, Kahan and Hozier captivate the country with simple rhythms and lyrics. Isabella Epidendio (she/her), a first-semester economics major at Cal Poly Humboldt, says, “I loved ‘Northern Attitude’ already just because of things like its melody and composition, but the new version kind of immediately tops the original for me. In general, Noah’s become one of my favorite artists. The whole ‘Stick Season’ album is wonderful to listen to already, but with Hozier, there’s this [certain] quality to any song he writes, covers or collaborates on; I’m not really sure what it is. There’s a depth in his work that just brought out the best parts of this song — I think I’ve listened to it like 1000 times by now.”
While Kahan’s career is young, there is no sign of him stopping. By collaborating with well-known artists such as Post Malone, Kacey Musgraves, Zach Bryan and Hozier and with the release of an album with two songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, his success has skyrocketed quickly. This will hopefully earn him another huge success at the 2024 Grammy Awards.
And with that, comes our rating. Could you guess what it is?