Noah Kite’s music is something to behold, marvel at even. Breathe it in and exhale, then process the feelings while waiting for the buzz to hit. Drunk Lil Guy is a spectacular journey into the highs and lows of life and relationship, but from a unique perspective. As Noah puts it:
It’s one thing for an album to trace the path of a relationship along its traditional arc; early curiosity expands into lunatic passion before cooling to inertness. But what if that line were not a curve at all, but instead a jagged saw tooth of highs and lows thrusting the listener into the air before crashing them into the dirt below?
Lyrically and musically, Drunk Lil Guy follows this up and down pattern, though on something like the other side of trauma. It’s all the chaos and angst of a tumultuous experience, organized and conveyed into a raw, but well thought-out piece of art.
From the beginning, Kite sets the tone with “Carrion Birds.” Tight string sections compliment a staccato beat that builds the tension. Noah’s voice cuts through like a sparrow (or perhaps more accurately a hawk, of the carrion variety?) darting through the sky, taking your attention this way and that, unsure if or when he’ll land. He shows off his vocal prowess with a rhythmic bridge/breakdown, the likes of which you’ll want to listen to a second time just to make sure you don’t miss what is going on.
This tense energy continues throughout the album, sometimes tiptoeing like kids trying to avoid their fighting parents in the other room, and other times like a march into an uphill battle. Noah’s music is described as the “sound of someone going through it,” and man is that accurate. It’s like all the angst of a young adult life wrapped up in a beautiful and intricately developed album.
The production itself mimics the feel of the album. Months of rehearsal were supposed to culminate in a live full-band recording, but days before the session, plans were changed due to the pandemic. Instead of scraping the project altogether, or even just postponing, the decision was made to have the band record individually at Magic Closet Studios in Portland.
Like the angular flight path of the album’s core conflict, altered plans and shattered exceptions were reformed into something all the more beautiful.
The result is nothing short of fantastic, a chamber folk piece in the vein of Sufjan Stevens or Fleet Foxes, though I heard some Copeland in there too, particularly on “Corvalis,” with its swell of chaos at the end, representing a “dreamscape” of the love interest’s college days. Throughout all of it, we can see that Noah is not only a skilled composer and vocalist, but a storyteller. And the arc of Drunk Lil Guy is something relatable to everyone, with cutting lines like, “Here’s to our friends, they were yours in the end.”
My favorite moment in the story is found in “Right Again,” with a tense build that feels like someone running away from the scene of a crime. The protagonist stops in his tracks when he realizes,” Jesus Christ, I’m all she wants.” Frozen, he contemplates his situation, his future, her feelings and the ever-looming question: am I enough for her?
Something I was really impressed with (besides the obvious composition and performance on this album) is how Noah handles the vulgar things of life. In this raw expression of a relationship, he handles the typically hidden parts with elegance and class, without ever sacrificing the grittiness of what actually happened, or even more importantly, the emotions behind it. This honest storytelling is throughout, but culminates in “This Body,” with, “Do you remember when we used to screw til 3am, now there’s only this body and a grave to put it in.”
Listening to Drunk Lil Guy is like canoeing down a river full of rapids, mixed with the brief reprieves of peace in between, the quiet lull before the thunder of conflict and exploration comes again. It’s victory and passion, selfish ambition and crushing humiliation. Living like the lost but finding your way in the end through recollection, expression and, eventually, “starting to feel again.”
Drunk Lil Guy comes out September 3rd on all streaming platforms. Find out more about Noah Kite here: