Noble Son is reaching out with humour and humility, advocating for mental health from a place of honesty.
When I first spotted Life Isn’t Fun, I panicked, wondering how my internal dialogue made its way onto an album cover without my knowledge. I hadn’t felt so seen since before the pandemic lockdown, and I don’t believe there’s any better function of music than to reach its listeners in even the most remote places. Noble Son’s second full-length album Life Isn’t Fun is just as thoughtful as the first — his cynical quips are lightened by bright keys and vocal harmonies — but there is also a tangible freedom of expression in the variety of lyrical content as well as the untraditional song structures that give Noble Son his distinct sound. Expressing great sorrow and joy simultaneously, Life Isn’t Fun is characteristically nonconforming, trading stylistic limitations for comically deft, candid insight.
No one says it quite like Adam Kirschner of Noble Son: in other words, exactly as it is. The multi-talented artist refuses to use the cover of poetic language and instead conveys the sheer anarchy of human existence colloquially. The multi-dimensional Life Isn’t Fun is a welcome addition to the mental health discussion; it counters the dangerous notion that diseases like depression or anxiety can be treated merely with “happy thoughts” by presenting complicated emotions as they are. The chorus of “Love Love Love” manages to juxtapose the most basic human need for compassion with a cheeky reference to psychological conditioning: “someone give me love love love love…maybe as a kid I didn’t get enough”. As the world gets more and more complex, there is a growing need for honest self-reflection. Kirschner calls out getting hung up on semantics in the catchy verse: “fuck respectful dialogue, I feel emotional”. Noble Son is reaching out to critical listeners with humour and humility, advocating for mental health from a place of honesty.
Life Isn’t Fun quickly made space for itself among my essential favourite albums with astute lines like “maybe privilege comes in safety”. The pre-released sing-along “Sad, Dumb, Lovesick Young Kid” features a playful melody while the lyrics satirize the harmful ideologies of success and privilege embedded deep within our culture. Addressing the impossibly precarious socio-economic ladder we’re told to climb, its lyrics make difficult ideas digestible, prompting self-awareness in the pursuit of happiness: “when I get some money, then I can be happy and when I get famous, then I’ll stop complaining”. Exposing the socially acceptable myths of existence, Kirschner’s songs look critically at how we treat ourselves and each other. “Be Right Back” is seemingly about a lover’s depression and a failing attempt to make space for that sadness in a relationship: “let’s discuss it, we can laugh and you know I like my lovers sad”. Kirschner counters mental health stigmas by expressing the value in sitting with sadness and the desirability of being vulnerable.
There are few artists that can affect an air of joyful indifference while voicing such sorrow, but Noble Son’s mix of plain language and layered instrumentals make this record distinctly wholesome. Beyond the words, the lead vocal is supported by these beautiful harmonies that give levity to the whole mix, contrasting the heavy-handed piano part with an air of communion. Life Isn’t Fun is diverse and innovative, the poeticism laying less in the language itself and more in the non-traditional navigation of melody; many of the songs ending up somewhere other than expected. It’s a record you can enjoy absentmindedly, until one of those insightful one-liners makes you want to listen closer. Commenting on a great many current issues, including a blatant disregard for science in public discourse, the record is both strikingly personal and political.
Openly negotiating political views, “Tired, Old Republican” touches on aging in and out of different belief systems — a transition that is becoming less straightforward in today’s changing social climate. With that in mind, there are few things I want to remember 2020 for, but Life Isn’t Fun is one of them. When “the internet’s boring and joy has become slim to none”, the final track begs the eerily relevant question: “what’s a lonelysome creature expected to do”. Although the record concludes “slim to none,” I’d argue that with Life Isn’t Fun out in the world, the best “a lonelysome creature” can do is listen.