For anyone following the career of Evan Thomas Weiss, better known as Into It. Over It., his transition from basement-punk into the indie-rock major leagues is anything but unexpected. Since the band’s inception, Weiss has conveyed such a fierce relatability within his tunes that he has become something of a personality to his audience, an auditory best friend for when times get rough. By subtly touching on the specifics of his own life, Weiss’s records possess an immediate, gripping narrative, one that continues on the third Into It. Over It. full length, Standards. Here, Weiss strikes a difficult balance between the bombast of his earlier material and his expansion of the project’s catalogue with new instrumentation, entirely analog production, and a refined lyrical deposition.
Although Weiss has always applied great attention to detail in his music, Standards is definitely a progression for Into It. Over It. as he carries over the swirling finger picking and structural dynamics of Intersections, and adds a greater emphasis on layering and, for the most part, cohesiveness. Early tracks “Closing Argument” and “No EQ” sound like pocket IIOI songs at first, but upon the second or third time around, you can start to notice the little flourishes of piano and synths, sounds Weiss has used sparingly on previous records, ones that are now fleshed out, creating a richer texture. Yet for being his most keys-centric album, Standards rocks pretty hard.
The snare and bass driven groove on “Closing Argument” plays like a Yo La Tengo cut, and the fuzzy, high energy “Adult Contempt” could have been a Proper song if not for the Moog riffs and thunderous drumming courtesy of new collaborator Joshua Sparks. Previously of the underrated Former Thieves, Sparks is the rhythmic backbone on Standards; his playing nailing a wider range than the drums on past IIOI material. For every complex, chaotic beat on songs like “Required Reading” or “Vis Major”, Sparks dials it back and lets Weiss’s voice and instrumentation breathe, heard best on album climax “Old Lace & Ivory”. A mostly acoustic song with lush vocal harmonies, the lighter drumming and withdrawn synth/guitar on the song’s outro strikes the ears viscerally, creating a dark atmosphere which carries into the records later half.
Unfortunately, despite containing some of its best moments (“Adult Contempt, Bible Black”), Standards‘ show of experimentation begins losing its charm past the middle, rending tone showcase “Anesthetic” and obligatory acoustic slower “The Circle of the Same Ideas” too indulgent to be relatable. If this record was only one or two tracks shorter, its reserved sections would stand out more and digest better within the whole body of work. Regardless, most of Standards is well composed, and is in turn complimented by Weiss’s evolved lyrics.
While many of his past songs describe distinct relationships and experiences, Weiss paints with a much broader brush on Standards, using romantic language metaphorically to explore untouched subject matter. The refrain on “Your Lasting Image” may be “I have the faintest recollection of us”, but its verses suggest a much more universal loss, whether it be of intimacy, friendship, or one unnervingly perfect moment. In the press for this album, Weiss claims he has not written a song about a girl “in a long time”, so many of the “love”- type references on Standards lend themselves to deeper analysis, an unusual opaqueness which suites IIOI well. “Bible Black” draws from everyday misery (“lost power in the apartment/day in, day out”) to humanize the struggle with a higher power, and “Required Reading” utilizes descriptions of a literal broken home to suggest struggles with abuse.
By being more transcendent with his viewpoint, Weiss’s lyrics on Standards finally match the intricacy his music is known for, making for a powerful listen. It’s this kind of artistic growth that propels flagship bands past the journalistic buzzword they’re associated with, and following Standards, it’s safe to say Evan Weiss has the potential to remain a revered name in alternative music for a while longer, regardless if emo is still being revived or not.
– Andre I.