Out in the United States this week but not until 29 April in the UK and Europe, the new album from Into It. Over It. ranked as one of our most eagerly awaited releases of 2016. Ever since ‘Intersections’ saw Evan Weiss’ project take to another level, fans have been wanting to hear more Into It. Over It. material (not to downplay any of Evan’s other bands – Pet Symmetry’s album last year was so good).
During the early winter months of 2015, Evan decided to write what would become ‘Standards’ in a Vermont cabin that was quite literally in the woods. There was no internet or phone signal and only solar panels and a generator for heat and electricity. After finishing the writing, Evan decided to work with acclaimed producer John Vanderslice to record it at his all-analogue studio – giving the record an instantly authentic feel.
A buzz of feedback marks the start of the record’s opening song ‘Open Casket’. As this fades and is replaced by acoustic strums (the first of many on the record, although the majority have been ‘distorted through electric amplification’), Evan wistfully sighs: ‘My friends from are all a wreck’. He then goes on to describe how they’re ‘hanging heavy from their old routine’ and how they ‘torched their 20s like it’s kerosene’. It appears to be observations about people who settle and don’t get out of their bad ways. As brushed drums come in, the lyrics get darker before Evan reveals why the song’s character (is it him?) is still socialising with these people – there’s a girl and he also hasn’t got out of the rut. We defy anyone not to understand the power of the feelings as Evan sings the immortal line: ‘You showed up late per usual, but you wore my favourite dress. Just like always, I’m just a mess’.
Intricate and looped guitars run through ‘Closing Argument’, a song which has a sound akin to a less intense The World is a Beautiful Place… There’s real pride in Evan’s voice when he sings ‘We are what we are’ and there seems to be a real element of hope running throughout. This is followed by the recent single, ‘No EQ’. With vintage guitars, hypnotic drums and more of a ‘full band’ sound, this drifts into more familiar II.OI. territory but also has the entrancing resonance of Bloc Party’s ‘So Here We Are’ shining through its incredible guitar work. Evan also opens up his emotions in the lyrics: ‘Can you trace this distance from me to you? So I can etch this on my spine. Replace my face with just a blurry memory, you must be kidding me’. You can almost feel his pain and anger. That he follows this up with the heartbreaking line ‘My aching brain doesn’t process things the same’ is sure to shatter you.
‘Vis Major’ brings back memories of pre-‘Intersections’ Into It. Over It. It’s a punk song that could be summed up by three simple words that Evan sings near its beginning: ‘Loud and clear’. As it moves on, Evan has the chance to indulge in some twinkly guitar skills that it’s impossible not to adore. This couldn’t be more different to the song that comes after it. ‘Your Lasting Image’ has a dreamy soundscape akin to The Antlers or Foxes and the subject matter is suitably sullen: ‘Abandoned nerves for the night and threw my fears over the summit’. Subtly powerful, it even veers close to post-rock as Evan sings how ‘Photocopied black and white, this is your lasting image’. The introduction of ‘Old Lace & Ivory’ is expertly blended into the final moments of ‘Your Lasting Image’ and it appears that now Evan is taking stock of the world in which we live: ‘I trained my vision to retire when the world’s a mess’. It sounds like a distant cousin of Reuben’s ‘Good Luck’ and finishes with sparkling sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place if they came from M Ward’s guitar.
As well as Evan’s trademark self-depreciation, there is plenty of synthesiser used throughout the record – and the studio’s loop pedals were certainly used to good effect. As well as this, there seem to be a number of characters – not all of whom you’d want to meet – scattered throughout the songs. Following the psychedelic dream pop of penultimate song ‘Anesthetic’ is ‘The Circle of the Same Ideas’. Mainly just Evan and his guitar (singing in a similar way to Frank Turner), the song makes a fitting finale with the use of glockenspiel and guest vocalists. Of course, it wouldn’t’ be an Into It. Over It. record without one last blast of lyrical genius: ‘My turn of phrase, it always begs and explanation’.
Going back to basics and recording free from computers seems to not only have given Evan Weiss so much freedom, but also put real fire in his belly. ‘Standards’ is an album that rewards on repeated listens – there’s even a string arrangement on ‘Anesthetic’. The album is vigorous, experimental and honest – everything you’d want from an Into It. Over It. album and more.