Written and recorded in ten days, Horizon offers up another side of Scott Orr: playful, self-aware, and open to taking a detour now and then.
As gentle and delicate as Scott Orr’s musical arrangements are, his last two albums (2021’s Oh Man and 2018’s Worried Mind) have been wracked with anxieties about daily living, death, the afterlife, and the condition we are leaving our planet in for future generations. Not that I’m complaining: no one runs the gamut between life, love, and loss like Orr. When it comes to creating a distinctive sound and atmosphere, Orr’s intimate and ethereal burbling music has most other musicians beat.
So it will come as no surprise to most Orr enthusiasts when he says, “Lately, I have found myself preoccupied with thoughts of death. It was a recurring theme on [Oh Man] and continues to inspire me as I work on my next album.” But a funny thing happened on the way to finishing up that new album. As Orr explains it, he took a small creative detour and wrote a set of new songs “just for fun.” He started with the exercise on March 10, 2023, and ten days later, he had “written, recorded, mixed, and finalized” the nine songs for a new album he’s named Horizon. “To me,” Orr says, “a horizon is a perfect metaphor for life’s most meaningful aspects: love, relationships, passion, and even death. These things are intangible and elusive, yet they shape our lives in profound ways.”
Both Worried Mind and Oh Man bear the mark of Orr the perfectionist, a musician and producer who pays the closest attention to every sonic detail. Orr’s pivot on Horizon is instead marked by a palpable spontaneity and energy. About forty-five seconds into the opening song “Still,” there’s an audible squeak as Orr’s fingers slide across his guitar strings. It’s a small, human moment that I find even more poignant because it comes right after he sings the first of the song’s four lines: “Still me.” He is a master of making much out of very little at all, and “Still” runs deep with a few sparse finger snaps, a subtle drum track, and Orr’s barely-there vocals. The crystalline “Clear” follows a similar trajectory, making a memorable earworm melody work in place of an actual chorus.
Like the sun rising or setting across the horizon line, Horizon is over before you know it. At just twenty-six minutes, its brevity is as unexpected as its existence. Music like Orr’s runs the risk of becoming too same-samey over an extended tracklisting, yet, in this case, without straying far from his musical formula, Horizon offers another side of Scott Orr: playful, self-aware (see closing track, “Scott,” for some charming self-talk), and open to taking a detour now and then.