Noah Kahan’s latest project, I Was / I Am, represents a deep dive into his psyche and mental life, as the folk-pop artist grapples with his past and present, while also trying to find his inner balance. Kahan’s newest release illustrates the ways he’s grown, both sonically and as an honest and eager songwriter, since his debut album, Busyhead, in 2019. He may have summed up his album best through a recent post on Facebook.
“These songs were about growth, and that feeling of recognizing how much I had truly changed,” Kahan said in a caption promoting the album. “They formed an honest admission that some of the change was for the better, and some of the change was for the worse.”
“Part of Me,” the lead track and single, finds Kahan ruminating on a past relationship and the ways that it affected him. But Kahan takes a pretty standard notion about the idea of a failed relationship and says, “But I don’t miss you / I miss the way you made me feel.” In this honest assessment, Kahan pines to feel the way that he once did, but, given the context provided by the rest of the album, it also seems like he understands that that time of his life has come and gone and he needs to learn to move on and grow.
“Caves” details another one of Kahan’s past relationships in which neither he nor his significant other can admit that they both need to find something new. The track features a brightly picked chord progression and is also driven by playful and bouncy melodies, making it easy to forget that the song is not about something joyful, rather it’s about two people not being able to choose what is best for the both of them.
“Animal” takes on a lot of the same issues as “Bad Luck” and feelings of not being in control. The song’s warm guitar solo, an unusual choice for Kahan, actually provides a nice change of pace from his normal singer-songwriter sound.
The final and perhaps most intimate song from I Was / I Am is “Howling,” a tender and introspective track backed by a soft acoustic guitar. While the contemplative lyrics leave Kahan with more questions than answers, it feels like a fitting close to an album that showcases Kahan’s gift for intimate yet relatable introspection.
Photo Courtesy of Republic Records