I know that the “six degrees of separation” is commonly linked to actor Kevin Bacon, but I think it’s time we made an exception to the theory and include Evan Weiss. Whether it’s through the seemingly hundreds of side projects he’s a part of (most recently Pet Symmetry and Their/They’re/There) or the handful of records he’s produced (ranging from bands like You Blew It! to Xerxes), it’s no wonder someone who’s definitely not me nicknamed the Into It. Over It. mastermind “the emo mayor” (consider this review my official apology for that, Evan). But a funny thing happened during the writing and recording sessions for his third album – turns out Standards isn’t an emo record after all.
Unless you too have been away in a cabin all winter, you’ve probably read by now that Weiss and drummer Josh Sparks secluded themselves in a solar and generator-powered Vermont cabin last winter to write LP3. They then recorded the album entirely to tape with producer John Vanderslice at his Tiny Telephone Studio, leaving no room for micromanaging the album’s sound. And all that sounds really dope and makes for a nice background story in Into It. Over It’s artist bio but ultimately doesn’t matter if the songs don’t deliver.
Thankfully, Standards more than delivers as the album’s twelve tracks ebb and flow between immediacy and intimacy and has a pacing that few albums of its ilk can match. The album begins in familiar fashion as “Open Casket” finds Weiss behind his acoustic guitar, bemoaning the fact that maybe’s he not so much better off than his friends that “torch their twenties like it’s kerosene.” The track sets the tone for the back-and-forth one-take energy of Standards – the gently sweeping ballads “Open Casket” and “Your Lasting Image” bookend the peppy “No EQ” and the scorching hot “Vis Major” (Sparks’ work behind the kit channels the very best of DC hardcore). What plagued Weiss on his prior two albums was each could get stuck in the same patterns whereas Standards is really the first Into It. Over It. album to illustrate Weiss’ versatility.
And then there’s the one-two emotional punch of the aforementioned “Your Lasting Image” and “Old Lace & Ivory.” The former is bound to become the band’s “Trasatlanticism,” slowly echoing and swelling as Weiss’ recalls that he’s had “the faintest recollection of us” before transitioning beautifully into the latter. “Old Lace & Ivory” may be the most intimate song on the album, as it’s just Weiss and some simple yet effective guitar plucking. But before you can take a breath, “Adult Contempt” shows up and Sparks’ frenetic drumming brings out the best in Weiss’ guitar work, pushing it to the limit during the track’s inspired bridge.
Weiss’ lyrics throughout Standards are equally vague as they are directed as he seems to touch on everything from friendships to relationships to his hometown to his own personal growth, leaving it all to the listener’s interpretation (“Closing Argument” and the haunting “Bible Black” will have listeners reaching for the lyric sheet almost immediately). The album’s best moment happens on Standards’ penultimate track, “Anesthetic” (a track Weiss claims to be his favorite IIOI track ever – ”the most proud of anything I have ever made”). Conceived years prior with a classical guitar found in producer Brian Deck’s basement, Weiss recorded some rough voice memos with it. These memos would be re-discovered years later in that Vermont cabin and served as the basis for “Anesthetic.” Paced by Spark’s steady drumming, the song is a showcase of Weiss’ best work as a musician ever – it’s incredible graceful and engaging and like nothing else in the Into It. Over it. discography.
There’s been some recent hubbub over a list Rolling Stone recently published that ranked Weiss’ 2013 release, Intersections, as one of the 40 greatest emo records of all time. I recently semi-joked that Rolling Stone messed up by not just waiting a few weeks to release that list, as Standards would easily take the place of many records on it. But as I mentioned earlier, Standards really isn’t an emo record as much as it’s a collection of tracks that span multiple genres – to pigeonhole it as such would discredit so much of what Weiss, Sparks, and Vanderslice accomplish on this record. It’s dynamic and unpredictable while also being Into It. Over It.’s most focused work – the album he’s always set out to make. Standards is the most fully-formed release of Weiss’ career, thus resulting as one of 2016’s most essential releases and beginning the next phase of Into It. Over It’s journey, which will only add more chains of connections to the “Six Degrees of Evan Weiss” theory.