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NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Scrutinizing ‘Stick Season’ Singles

Image from Spotify

The period between Halloween and the first winter snow, what New England-based singer-songwriter Noah Kahan calls “stick season,” is supposedly the most depressing time of the year. As the mercury on the thermometer drops and stepping outside means being met with darkness and blistering wind, it’s no wonder that so many look back to warmer days wistfully. It’s ironic, then, that the singles from an album titled after dark and lonely days would end up being some of the funniest tracks of my winter.  

Kahan is a Vermont native who released his third studio album, “Stick Season,” on July 8, 2022. However, the record saw only middling success until the title track of the same name went viral on — of course — TikTok, where it was the soundtrack to innumerable 30-second clips. The extended version of the album includes its other major hit, “Dial Drunk,” which features American singer and songwriter Post Malone.  

The title track revolves around a person reminiscing about a past relationship that ended with their significant other leaving them for, presumably, bigger and better goals, while they are stuck inside during the worst time of the year, with nothing to do but ruminate. “Because your voice trailed off exactly as you passed my exit sign / Kept on drivin’ straight and left our future to the right,” Kahan sings. The song’s theme of isolation and mentions of the COVID-19 pandemic mean that despite its Vermont setting, its lyrics are universally relatable.  

Kahan also pens piercing lines such as “I’ll drink alcohol ’til my friends come home for Christmas.” Something about the delivery of that lyric — it’s sung with a pause: “I’ll drink — alcohol ‘til my friends come home for Christmas” — really hit me. Maybe it’s the idea of numbing one’s pain indefinitely or the implication that the character’s friends will come home; the narrator will pretend to be happy for a while, and then the friends will leave again, just as their significant other did.  

“Stick Season,” however, is saved from being just another sad song by glints of self-awareness that make the song darkly humorous. “And I saw your mom, she forgot that I existed,” Kahan sings. I couldn’t help but imagine a North-Face sporting, Costco-frequenting Vermontian mother running into the unkempt and distraught narrator at a grocery store and immediately doing a 180.  

This song is truly unique to me because of the way that it’s really about feeling abandoned by the world, not a specific person. The narrator’s friends, significant other, and maybe even family have left him to seek greener pastures, while he remains stranded in his hometown, unable to let go of the past. Alternating between self-pity and painfully specific description, Kahan creates a character and story that are uncomfortably familiar.  

Okay, I promise the next one is actually funny. “Dial Drunk” features an alcoholic narrator whom I think of as college-age, who remembers his ex-girlfriend whenever he’s drunk and/or arrested. This subject matter is undoubtedly serious as well, given Malone’s openness with his struggles with alcoholism. However, the fast tempo and deadpan delivery make this song extremely memorable.  

“I don’t like that when they threw me in the car / I gave your name as my emergency phone call,” the two sing. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for the ex; even after the relationship is over, she can’t shake him. “Honey, it rang and rang, even the cops thought you were wrong for hangin’ up,” Kahan continues; it’s painfully obvious that she probably blocked him or saw his name and pressed ‘Decline.’ 

The punchline of the song is the end of the chorus, which goes “I dial drunk, I’ll die a drunk, I’ll die for you.” Like in “Stick Season,” the narrator’s ex-girlfriend has clearly moved on and won’t even answer his calls, while he continues to throw away his dignity in hopes that she’ll come back one more time. 

Both songs teeter on the melodramatic, “Dial Drunk” more so — however, the songs are absorbing and witty because they are simultaneously self-aware. Kahan invites the audience to watch the debasement of the narrator as he behaves selfishly and irresponsibly. The song is funny because we’ve all completely given up our self-respect over someone in the past, only to look back with embarrassment: the audience is laughing at Kahan’s character because he reminds us of the most wheedling, plaintive parts of ourselves.  

Although I enjoyed both songs, “Dial Drunk” was truly special; Malone and Kahan’s differing tones complement one another perfectly. There’s a magical moment during the second pre-chorus when the two harmonize, and it’s just ear candy. Although both songs have a folksy, alternative sound, “Dial Drunk” sounds like it’s meant for the Billboard 100.  

Either way, both are worth a listen! I’d give “Stick Season” 3.5 out of five crabs and “Dial Drunk” 4 crabs. 

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Mrunmayi Joshi, Managing Editor
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