Pick of the Week: Noah Kahan and Hozier “Northern Attitude”

Northern Attitude, Noah Kahan, Hozier, Pick of the Week, WERS 88.9 FM
Graphics by Sarah Tarlin

Ella Mastroianni, Staff Writer

On November 10th, “Northern Attitude” became Northern Lad-itude with the re-release of the song by Noah Kahan, featuring none other than Hozier. These two men have taken their respective places as long-haired indie folk-rock royalty, and so a collaboration between them was inevitable. 

The release of this single was previewed by a performance back in October on Kahan’s tour when he pulled Hozier onstage to perform this rendition of the song for the first time. Unbeknownst to that Tennessee crowd and the rest of fans, the song wasn’t officially announced until November 1st. Kahan posted a TikTok, saying: “From now on, the only version of ‘Northern Attitude’ that I’m comfortable with you listening to is the one with Hozier, and it’ll stay that way indefinitely.” 

Kahan has been gradually re-releasing songs from his 2022 album Stick Season featuring other beloved artists such as Lizzy McAlpine, Kacey Musgraves and Post Malone. This makes Hozier the fourth (but I doubt the last) feature. Similar to those releases, a lyric video for “Northern Attitude” was released. It depicts a photoshopped Noah Kahan and Hozier side by side in what looks like, dare I say, an L.L. Bean advertisement. Somehow, I’ve never wanted to grow luscious brown hair and a beard more. 

 

LYRIC BREAKDOWN

“Northern Attitude,” was written by Noah Kahan and collaborator Gabe Simon (who has worked with the likes of Lana Del Rey and mxmtoon). It was originally released in September of 2022. The new version, although not having any new lyrical content, is carried by Kahan’s existing foundation and Hozier’s soulful vocals. From the first listen, it is undeniable that there could not have been a more perfect duo to collaborate on this song. 

It begins slowly, with “Breathin' in, breathin' out,” followed by a few prodding questions such as “You feelin' right? You feelin' proud?.” From there, “Northern Attitude” quickly accumulates to become not only a song title but an identity built within the lyrics of the song. It becomes a descriptor of oneself. 

After a softer verse and pre-chorus, the song picks up dramatically, carrying a new life with the inclusion of more intense instrumentals with a beat. The chorus introduces a vulnerable position for the narrator becoming close to someone, beckoning the proclamation, “Forgive my northern attitude. Oh, I was raised out in the cold.” This theme of almost painful self-awareness is repeated throughout the song. 

The instrumentals resume their initial muted stance for the second verse which is sung by Hozier. This verse continues picking out distinct situations and feelings that are difficult to make sense of. He sings, “All alone late in life. Scared to live, scared to die.” The pre-existing lyrics of this verse and the rest of the song are only enhanced by Hozier’s vocals' inflections. 

 

THE HIGHLIGHTS

The standout for me began around the 2:21 mark when Hozier belts and howls in the gap between verse two and the following chorus. As someone familiar with Hozier’s work, it was reminiscent of a song called “Who We Are” on his newest album Unreal Unearth, where he utilizes his vocals in a similar manner. This addition to “Northern Attitude” was strikingly placed and highly appreciated.

Kahan and Hozier’s voices are undeniably gorgeous individually, but together they have created an unparalleled blend of warm vocals. The highlight of the song is this fusion of two individually rich and distinct vocals. It is easy to differentiate between who is singing what, but it doesn’t feel necessary to focus on their individual voices when their harmonies speak for themselves. 

 

“IF YOU [WANT TO] GET TOO CLOSE”

For those interested in seeing either of these men perform, both Hozier and Kahan will be making their way over here on tour in 2024. Kahan will be performing at Fenway on July 18th and 19th. And Hozier will be making a few stops in surrounding areas such as New York and Maine on his own tour. 

“Northern Attitude,” by Noah Kahan and Hozier encapsulates the experience of living in a place where the sun goes down before 5 p.m. This song is an anthem for people currently living with or who were “raised on little light.” 

It’s an inherently curious song that contemplates what it means to be someone with a Northern attitude and puts words down to define the experience. This can either mean introducing listeners to the concept, or such as in my case, reiterating an identity that we’ve always known, but haven’t been able to share verbally. 

The song focuses on the human experience and the inexplicability of it. There is a familiarity in Kahan’s lyrics reaching out to the listener and acknowledging out-of-place feelings, different coping mechanisms, and various ideas that can seem shameful; instead, they are reclaimed in this song. The folky instrumentals accompanying these lyrics couldn’t be a more perfect fit, evoking the spirit of northerners. 

People who resonate with this song are now able to say that they too have a “Northern Attitude.”

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