How does one describe Into It. Over It? Sometimes a solo folksy singer-songwriter, sometimes rocking pop-punk band. Always kooky. And the “E” word gets thrown around a lot. Does “really good” suffice for an accurate description?
Into It. Over It. is Evan Weiss, in the same sense that Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor. Weiss is extremely prolific, having released countless compilations and splits around his IIOI studio albums, as well as playing in a number of other projects (Stay Ahead of The Weather, Their/They’re/There, Pet Symmetry). He usually rocks the stereotypical folksy/hipster combo of a beard, thick glasses, and checked shirt, and most of his lyrics are introspective and poetic. And did I mention that his music is great?
I first heard IIOI featured in split EPs alongside the likes of Such Gold and Koji, and on a Fake Problems tour sampler. Later I fell in love with the adorable Daytrotter sessions. Discovering Weiss was so rewarding, because there were so many avenues to explore. One project, 52 Weeks contained a whopping 52 songs, written at the rate of one per week for an entire year. And all of the music is so diverse, yet irresistible.
Despite being so incredibly prolific, Standards is only the third full studio IIOI album. The first, Proper (2011), was lovably addictive upbeat pop-punk. Follow up album Intersections (2013) was less accessible, partly because Weiss chose not to include choruses when he wrote the album. And Standards? Read on to find out.
Look back through Weiss’ previous work, and you’ll notice that he is a man obsessed with location and environment. Many of his songs are named after places and towns. It is interesting then, that for this album he choose to go to the middle of nowhere in Vermont. Isolated in a cabin in the woods with drummer and collaborator Josh Sparks, surrounded by snow and little else, they had no choice but to write.
We are introduced through “Open Casket”, with lightly picked guitar and xylophone, but become antiquated with the energetic IIOI sound in second track “Closing Argument”, which brings in the attitude in the second verse.
Lead single “No EQ” centres around a mantra that reminds me of a doorbell my parents had when I was a child. The drumming is frantic and busy, while Weiss sings calmly in the verses, with more urgency in the chorus. Sparks’ style of urgent, hurried drumming is noticeable in a number of songs on the album “Vis Major” sounds straight up punk, with added flourishes of complexity, and “Adult Contempt” follows suit with highlights on cymbal bells and plenty of wash. “Bible Black” also standouts as a drumming track due to the odd trashy percussion that punctuates the song with attention grabbing tones.
Tracks four and five signal a slump in the album . The slow burning “Your Lasting Image” seems to drag for almost 5minutes, full of swirling swells and echoing accents. Weiss sadly sings “I can’t remember your touch”. The dreamy hazy music runs seamlessly into “Old Lace and Ivory”, which keeps the mood low, but sounds more hopeful than forlorn. There’s a lovely extended bridge of guitar picking over simple drumming, slowly building up and gaining fuzz to lead us back into the more energetic songs on the album.
“Who You Are ≠ Where You Are” has a delightful bouncing riff that stops abruptly while a hi-hat beat dances merrily in the background. For a man touted as the figurehead of the new wave of emo, this album sure sounds upbeat. He does show versatility though. Weiss rates “Anesthetic” as one of his proudest moments. It’s another soothing slow-burner, rich in atmosphere and layered with distant vocal tracks.
This is truly an album, not just a handpicked selection of songs. You can tell by how the transitions between tracks sound so flawless. Weiss commented on a recent Reddit AMA that he had been inspired by “mostly instrumental ambient stuff when it came to most of the textures. brian eno. harold budd. yes. michael hedges. 60’s prestige and blue note stuff.” You hear the fuzzy tones, odd percussion, quirky doorbell riffs. You hear distorted acoustic guitar, moog synthesisers, and a range of effect pedals – weird sounds, textures and tones that all add to the appeal and make the album cohesive. There’s also a lively feel that could be attributed to the less-than-perfect analogue method of recording the album, at the insistence of producer John Vanderslice.
With Standards, Into It. Over It. still defy clear genre definition, with the tender songs full of folksy finger picking somehow fitting seamlessly next to punk belters.
Urgent. Intimate. Upbeat. Quirky. Perfect. Evan Weiss, the emo revival figurehead, went reclusive with his drummer and together they churned out some of their best work to date.