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Released: 2022

From the chilly Vermont winter, comes “Stick Season” by Noah Kahan, a wistful tune that carries a heavy heart and a poignant narrative. It’s a multi-layered tale of self-realization, regret, and nostalgia as Kahan navigates through the season of his personal discontent — the aftermath of a painful breakup.

“Stick Season” opens with a recollection — the protagonist’s memory of a promise his loved one made, a promise that was briskly broken. As his partner “passes his exit sign,” it becomes a metaphor for the missed opportunity of their relationship. This lyric could also be interpreted as the realization that they’ve moved on from him — a realization that cuts deep.

With the lines “and memories are somethin’ even smoking weed does not replace” and “I am terrified of weather ’cause I see you when it rains,” Kahan expresses an attempt to mask the pain and get on with life, but the memories of his lover are ever-present, amplifying his loneliness. This resonates with listeners who’ve ever tried to drown a heartache in distractions, only to find it resurfacing in the most mundane details.

The chorus “And I love Vermont, but it’s the season of the sticks… I’ll drink alcohol ’til my friends come home for Christmas” portrays the melancholy of being alone in your hometown — a place you love, yet it’s missing those you once shared it with. The “season of the sticks” refers to the time when all leaves have fallen, leaving just bare “sticks” behind; a symbol of the stripped-down, bare state of his feelings.

Further into the song, Kahan hints at the complexities of his personal life and his struggle with inherited darkness. Trying to compensate for his sadness (“piled something good on all my bad”), he hits the harsh reality — you can’t mask the pain, it surfaces nonetheless (“No, I am no longer funny, ’cause I miss the way you laugh”). The play of words here is a heartbreaking confession of his attempts to cover up the bitterness of loss with humor. Yet, he misses his ex-partner’s laughter, an indication of their importance in his life.

The bridge “now you’re tire tracks and one pair of shoes, and I’m split in half, but that’ll have to do” is a symbol of acceptance. His love has left, leaving behind only their footprints (“tire tracks”). The phrase “one pair of shoes” could imply his partner walking out of his life. Despite the pain (“I’m split in half”), he concedes it’s the reality he must live with. It’s a grim portrayal of life after a breakup: painful, yet inevitable.

“Stick Season” isn’t just a song of melancholy; it’s a raw, stark commentary on handling loss and loneliness. It teaches us the inevitability of pain and the necessity of acceptance. Sometimes, all one can do is go through the “season of the sticks,” with the hope that, soon, the leaves will return.

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