Editors' Notes Patrick Fiore, the Vancouver-based dream-pop auteur known as Noble Oak, wants to make it known that his third album, Horizon, is not explicitly an anti-Toronto record. But its immaculate piano and synth vistas may not have not turned out this way had he not left Canada’s biggest city after two years of working there for a failed start-up. “It's definitely more of a pro-return-home record,” Fiore tells Apple Music. That warm, welcoming feeling is manifest in blissfully light-headed songs that are as inspired by British Columbia’s natural beauty as they are by the open-road cruise control of The War on Drugs, the neon-tinted melodies of M83, and the ethereal R&B of Bon Iver. But as much as Horizon may exude the sedative effects of a quality chill-out record, the album is less about escapism than contemplating and confronting the stressors that make you seek it. Embedded within its twinkling textures and gauzy grooves are questions about the meaning of life and how to retain your sanity in a world gone mad. As Fiore explains, “I like to imbue my songs with a bit of dichotomy in that way, where there’s this happy-sounding musical element but the lyrical content is more entrenched in something darker.” With this track-by-track overview, Fiore guides us through Horizon’s bright sunrises and long shadows.
Morning "This song is an existential crisis—it's recognizing this feeling of entrapment that we all have. We tend to limit ourselves in the pursuit of conforming to something simple, and we have to face ourselves all the time. It's pretty overwhelming when we do that, and the song speaks to that idea, and also to the idea of keeping each other safeguarded from what other people say about us, and not letting it get to you. And then there’s the peril of the anxiety in your own mind getting to you. When you look at the world and see what's going on with people, it really makes you feel like you might be going crazy, and it makes you beg the question: Am I going crazy because everyone else is, or is it just me?”
In Series “This is more of a positive song, for sure. It discusses the possibility of being everywhere at once, which is something I yearn for because I feel so stretched thin in my life. It's kind of like an ideal condition in a way, where there’s this impossible world-bustle where we're overcommitting ourselves to everything, and how wonderful it would be to see everything we've missed due to lack of time or energy. Would our lives be better or worse? It's hard to say. But we sort of have to commit ourselves to these roles, and it's interesting trying to pick and choose what parts of your life get the attention and which don't.”
Different Place “This song came out at the end of a relationship, as most of my songs do. That's when I have the most emotional energy, when I'm in this weird mindset. This song kind of builds off of the feelings that 'In Series' has, but it's definitely more of a conversation with somebody where you're looking at the end of the relationship and you start to see what happened through a different lens for the first time—and, in a way, that makes less sense than it used to. It's very much about the head game, where you're kind of psyching yourself into perceptions about the end of the relationship.”
Hyacinth “'Hyacinth' examines a fall from grace. It was written when I was watching members of the community around me get outed and pinned down for mistakes they had made in the past. It was written during the #MeToo era, and I was watching a lot of people either get thrown under the bus for reasons they absolutely deserved to, or reasons that were kind of blown out of proportion. And it's kind of hard to put that into a lens that doesn't incriminate yourself, so I wrote a song about it. It really does talk about the politics of the things we read in media that we feed ourselves on social media, and just how it's hard to really align yourself with something true today, because we're constantly feeding ourselves news articles that might not be true and might be very misleading and quoting incorrect information. That's really the crux of what I've always been after: What is the truth? What does that mean? 'Hyacinth' is examining what the truth means today in a post-truth world.”
Magic Eyes "This is the first kind of downtempo, pensive track. It's a 'thank you' song to a very important person in my life, a way of expressing gratitude in the simplest terms. And that expression of gratitude was happening around when the breakup was happening [in ‘Different Place’]—I was sort of stepping back and being like, ‘Hang on, this isn't all terrible. This is useful, and this is a learning experience.'"
Evaporate "This song was made after a wake-up moment where I was able to look at myself differently, finally, after a long period of existential turmoil. It’s a breaking-free song—breaking free from reality for a moment as a productive means to solve our problems. It's knowing that we have an answer somewhere inside, and sometimes it involves external forces to find that, but everything kind of holds true in a realistic sense to solve those problems. It's about taking off that old shell and un-piecing it to find your new self that can solve those problems, to liberate your older self and your hindrances.”
Just a Game “This was written before 'Evaporate,' so it's kind of out of order there—it was back when I was still dealing with some relationship stuff, so it's really just about the game of relationships with two people trying to find the common ground, while still keeping their secrets and leaving space for error. You have people with varied sensibilities that try to meet in the middle somewhere, so it really is about these little games we play and how they're all in our head. We can overlook them and overcome them if we want, or not. And sometimes it's impossible, and sometimes it's possible. I think in my life I've run into more of the impossible side. So I guess you could say I'm a little bit cynical in that regard.”
Derailed “This is about losing focus on something that you had, whereas inside you, you might believe that you can maintain that focus. But there's always going to be external forces that are trying to pull you off track and trying to derail you from what you're doing and how you're feeling and thinking. 'Derailed' and 'Just a Game' kind of do go hand in hand, even though they sound like polar opposites.”
Sight “This was the last song I wrote before I left Toronto, in 2016—I was definitely in more of a guitar-solo mindset in Toronto. And this was written at the very beginning of a relationship, and it's very much like, ‘Oh, I found what I'm looking for—I finally have the sight to see what I needed to find.’”
Hypersleep "This one's kind of like the balm, or the long sleep that you've been waiting for at the end of a long journey. I would be remiss to not include an instrumental track on the album, because that's something I've always done. The first EP I put out only had one song on it with lyrics, so this one is kind of just keeping in touch with where Noble Oak used to be. And the song is meant to act as a partner piece to a song I wrote called 'Dream-Spark,' and it's a continuation of that mentality, where sleep is a theme—a whisk-you-away-to-dreamland sort of piece."