Written by Megan Langley
In July of 2019, Noah Kahan released his debut album, “Busyhead”, a record that was easily one of my favorites of that entire year and one that still has significant meaning to me to this day. After just over two years, the Vermont-based musician has returned with his highly-anticipated sophomore album, “I Was/I Am.”
The album begins with “Part Of Me,” starting off the album with lovely acoustic guitars, and the lines that they deliver (along with the melodies they accompany) will easily stick with the listener. The structure of the lyrics is very clever, and the pre-chorus seamlessly transitions to the unforgettable chorus.
“Animal” is up next, and it’s proof of his immense talent as a lyricist. Lines like “Can’t see the grass getting greener ‘cause out here ain’t nothing but blue” and “It’s an empty shell I live in, the doors are always closed / and I spend my weeks losing my head, resting my bones” depict the impact of depression using brilliant imagery and metaphors.
“Caves” quickly offers up catchy melodies and guitar licks, and the beautiful vocal harmonies are a nice addition to the track. The lyrics tell the story of a relationship that’s just not meant to be.
The spark simply isn’t there anymore, and both people involved are waiting for the other to initiate the breakup. Lines like “Oh, and we hold on to this for whatever reason / oh, and we’re too far to fix it up” and “Long game but none of us win, afraid of shedding our skin, we keep on playing pretend” clearly show this theme and help tell this story very well.
“Bad Luck” is a simple song musically, driven by just the piano and a subtle kick drum in the verses before more percussion and guitars eventually join in. The lyrics of this one also touch a bit on mental health, but more specifically, they touch on how it can impact one’s interpersonal relationships. Noah Kahan asks a partner “would you let me in, would you love me then?” and later reassures them that he’s working hard to keep his mental health at bay when he says “I swear I’m doing everything that I can.”
“Godlight” carries on a conversation started on “Busyhead”, a conversation about the downsides to being a famous public figure. In this track, Noah reflects on how his popularity has impacted him and created an ego, and during the chorus, he declares “to know me is to hate me, is to hate who I’ve become / I’m not the way I was.” The bridge shows him reminiscing about his youth and reminding himself about why he started pursuing a career in music in the first place, the pure passion for it.
“Someone Like You” brings some pleasant hooks in the pre-choruses and choruses, and Joy Oladokun’s feature brings some extra emotion to this breakup ballad. The song is irresistibly catchy and it’s clear why it was chosen to be one of the singles.
“Fear Of Water” is a heartbreakingly honest track about mental health, and the lines “I fear the fall / right now I just can’t find the energy / weighed down by a ton of bricks, I’m forgetting how to swim” explain how it feels to be dealing with depression on a day-to-day basis. The guitar is swapped out for piano, and the vocals on here put on one of the strongest performances on this whole record, especially during the bridge.
“Hollow” is one of the more upbeat tracks found on this record and much like “Someone Like You,” this one also contains an extremely memorable chorus. The lyrics in this chorus really stuck out as well.
The lines “Wake up every day and put on my clothes / Hoping that 401k might fill the hole in my soul” describe the monotonous routine of adulthood, and the song as a whole discusses the frustrations of getting older.
“Bury Me” showcases Noah’s talent as a vocalist all throughout, accompanied by some more minimalistic instrumentation. The lyrics on here circle back to a theme heard earlier on, the downfall of a relationship. Lines like “Watch it fall, let it drown in the deep blue sea” and “Cause honey now this house feels like a grave” bringing excellent metaphors that help get this story across very well.
“Howling” concludes the record, and this track contains so much emotion, not only within his vocal performance, but also in the lyrics. The song focuses a lot on mental health and trying to find a sense of purpose, and the lines in the chorus perfectly display someone desperately searching for that: “Is there something keeping me here for the minute, darling? / Did I lose my mind and am I still looking for it? / ‘Cause I don’t know why I feel this emptiness”
From the well-written lyrics to the mesmerizing performances, “I Was/I Am” is a raw, reflective record, and an astounding sophomore LP from Noah Kahan.
“I Was/I Am” is available now on all streaming platforms. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @NoahKahan and pick something up from his merch store, and if you’ve heard the album, let us know what you think by tweeting us @lgndsoftmrw!