Noah Kahan’s debut album Busyhead will help you clear your busy head


To most people, the alternative genre is taboo. Images of punk rock and emo grunge bands emerge in your mind. However, Noah Kahan’s debut album Busyhead will change how you view alternative music through its cheery and relaxing alternative folk and pop fusion. 

The album opens with my favorite of the ten tracks: “False Confidence.” It begins slow and melancholy before the jubilant marching beat picks up. The music is just fun. You want to dance. You want to twirl. You want to be happy and goofy and silly— the you that only your best friends see. You want to be the person behind the mask that Kahan sings about in this song. This catchy and uplifting song is all about release from any self-imposed pressure. 

The following song “Mess” embodies that same feeling of emancipation. Full of groovy whimsy, “Mess” is all about how living the dream as a musician isn’t always what it seems to be. Kahan’s nostalgia for the small town he grew up in shines through not just his lyrics and his vocals, but the pleasant supporting vocals as well. 

Furthermore, Kahan’s roots manifest in many of his other songs. The final track on Bushyhead titled “Carlo’s Song” is an impassioned remembrance for a friend of Kahan’s who passed away. Interestingly enough, it has the same tone of “Cynic,” the other song that embraces and reminiscences Kahan’s life before his music changed his lifestyle.  

Once as a joke, Kahan compared himself to the “Jewish Ed Sheeran,” and I honestly can’t think of a more accurate way to describe the exact feel of his music as a whole. Just as Sheeran has begun to do with his latest album, Kahan mixes interesting and refreshing beats with stridently honest lyrics to make his listeners feel bittersweet joy. 

For example, Kahan wrote “Tidal,” track nine, about a metaphor he once heard for depression: life is an ocean and depression is feeling yourself sinking while you watch everyone around you swimming successfully. He sings cutting lyrics such as “You can’t save someone too far out to find/ But it’s wearing me out/ And it’s stormy in the sea tonight.”  All the while, a multitude of guitars and the accompanying percussion beats push on happily.

But, Kahan does the converse of this just as well, which is demonstrated in the song before it on the  album, “Sink.” The ballad-like song features soft and melancholy music while the actual words he sings are quite romantic and content. In the last three lines, Kahan has the most beautiful voice crack I’ve ever heard. Intentional or not, this voice crack exposes more of Kahan than I’ve heard before. It takes Kahan’s emblematic honesty and layers on raw emotion.

That raw emotion can also be heard in “Save Me.”  Kahan’s vulnerability takes a new form in this awestruck and softly happy song. Somehow, his words are mildly sad. If it were to take the form of written word, “Save Me” would definitely be a letter to that one person who has helped you through your hard times, the person who is always there for you. 

“Hurt Somebody” stays consistent with the depth and relatability of “Save Me” despite being a pop song. Because it does contain that degree of authenticity, “Hurt Somebody” is an anomaly for the genre. Furthermore, this song is a perfect example of Kahan’s paradoxical voice; it’s low and resonate, but it also has this high pitched tinge to it.  Kahan’s effortlessly even voice is complimented gorgeously by Julia Micheals’ rich voice.  

Yet, Kahan’s usually smooth voice shakes in the feel-good song “Young Blood,” showcasing his passion. He also does this delightful little ascending run in the climax of the song when the music cuts off. Following that, the bass enters back in strongly coupled with more silvery supporting singing. All together, it creates a mellifluous Christian rock sound.

Busyhead as a whole is a unique self-exploration to Kahan’s own self while as acting as a guide for his listener’s self-exploration. He delves into tough and depressing topics all the while maintaining a lively and almost joyful feel. 

Kahan’s musical liberation from the emotions in his busy head becomes his listener’s.