Noah: 'Fragile Pieces'
By Henry Smith
When I caught up with Noah, he told me about the relationship he sings about on his new EP, Fragile Pieces. He also gave me insight into his recording process and vision for his sonic future. The overarching direction of the EP conveys a deconstruction, a process of cascading schisms, probably stemming from a self-realization following his breakup. The deconstruction seems to ultimately arrive at a root of himself and a root of his artistic vision.
NOAH, from Bethesda, attended an all-boys school known for its lacrosse team, and he currently studies English and Music at Cornell. Fragile Pieces illustrates the result of objectivity and material pressures seeping into life, and more specifically, relationships. Much like XXXTentacion’s 17, it holds up a broken picture of a relationship, consequently revealing some of the distortions that haunt our humanity.
The EP starts with Stay, the blunt edge of a rusted knife and Noah’s point of departure; “there she goes again screaming in my head.” He wrote this one shortly after he met her. Noah told me he likes Quest Love’s “dead” drum sound. A dark and dead rock beat underlies a familiar guitar riff. His compositional ability and talent on guitar is exhibited toward the end with a Jordan Rakei / Childish Gambino-esque breakdown. In fact, his bassist, Marcelle - a jazz purist - thinks that riff demonstrates that Noah’s “guitar chops are no joke.” Noah is working his way through music theory textbooks in his free time. The line of the EP: “Every time I try to carve out my own path, she’s always standing in my fucking way!” This last verse was added in the parking lot of the studio he recorded in this year.
Saturday transitions with more reflection but retains a familiar vein, as if he’s transferring the responsibility for his feelings from her to himself. Like in the first song, Noah’s talent comes through in the breakdown. This time it’s an RHCP sounding rock out where he moves his voice to the back of his throat, and a rugged baseline underlies his furious guitar. “It’s cold somedays, when I feel so afraid. These hands which have built me have lost their way.” Despite searching the recesses of his psyche, he can’t find that voice or flame that once drove his actions, as if his soul took a wander. He considers an action, but “thoughts of her may consume [him] instead.”
Wouldn’t Mind brings Noah to the beginnings of his creativity. It’s just him: longing vocals and weeping guitar. He is in his element. While there seemed to be a few creative hiccups on the first two songs in terms of originality or forcing some of the singing, this song is flawlessly consistent. Unlike XXXTentacion, Noah seems to understand that he misplaced blame for his feelings, and he ponders growing old with his “best friend.” Rather than being a drain on Noah, his “hunger for [her] drives [him] along.”
Finally, we arrive at a polished R&B song that seems to sum up his mistakes. “The music was up way too loud. She whispered in my ear: I know a place we can go, boy. How’d you like to get the hell out of here?”. Like many relationships within his world, Noah’s was a place of refuge: Before, he may have been vulnerable with his family or his music, but now, he could escape the ridiculous expectations and stress (the music was too loud). The expectation of a release from “the real world” distorts any relationship: “I don’t know what it is you do to me… Lately, I’ve been falling out of love.” Of course, she doesn’t “do” anything to Noah.
Noah told me he aimed to utilize clichés to make the story more succinct, focused and slightly ironic. This is consistent with how he views his relationship and his commonplace feelings on the relationship driven by distorted views of love, epitomized in cheesy romantic films where characters are obsessed with one another and push down their very real personal issues so they can enter some a narcissistic fantasy resulting in a ridiculous happiness with an implication of impossible longevity.
Noah says his last song is the closest to where he sees his sound going. He’s been writing R&B songs lately but listening to country. He looks to Bob Dylan for lyrical inspiration and Americana for aesthetic inspiration. He loves D’angelo and Dave Matthews. Slide guitar in an R&B song soon to come. If he can combine the creative vision required to structure a song like Fragile Pieces with the some of the insightful grooves he creates, then as he continues to find his voice and philosophy, he will continue to create something new and something valuable.