By JORDAN WALSH
It seems reductive to look at every new record from Into It. Over It., the main songwriting vehicle for the prolific Evan Weiss, as a “state of the emo address.” It’s true that Weiss has covered pretty much every angle of the genre, from the endless DIY energy of his 2009 52 Weeks project to the twisty pop-punk of 2011’s PROPER and the immaculate, layered subtlety of 2013’s Intersections. But with bands like The World Is A Beautiful Place… and Foxing crafting (fantastic) records like Harmlessness and Dealer that attempt to pull emo into the indie world of acceptability, it seems like we’re getting to a point where emo doesn’t need to be contemporarily defined or defended by someone like Weiss (not that he’s really been trying…he just has). The revival has come and passed; now the genre can just be.
Standards, the latest full-length from the Into It. Over It. moniker, flourishes in this freedom. The record is refined and balanced, intimate and occasionally loud as all get out—in fact, it passes all of these benchmarks within two tracks, and continues to ebb and flow beautifully from there. Weiss covers a lot of ground on Standards, from little bursts of fuzz rock (“Vis Major”) to pretty acoustic tracks (“The Circle of the Same Ideas”). Any complaints about Intersections’ relative uniformity should not apply here.
“Open Casket” kicks off the album on a noticeably melancholy note, painting the image of a home neighborhood full of disillusioned peers. It starts out judgmental, Weiss musing on their settled-down lifestyles: “My friends from where I’m from are all a wreck…they wake up still uninspired with no regrets.” At first, this seems to the kind of personal controversy Weiss would have played up on PROPER, but Standards is more thoughtful. His musings turn inward (“just like always/ I’m just a mess”) before landing on a sort of deadlocked perspective (“I’m carrying on and on/ I can’t decide”) above a delicately plucked, circular acoustic guitar line. The thought trails off, the album beginning on less-than-steady footing, existentially speaking.
The heart of Standards lies in “Your Lasting Image” and “Old Lace & Ivory,” two understated tracks that sport the best lyrics of Weiss’s career. The former track wraps a simple, heartbreaking refrain of “I have the faintest recollection of us” in a warm and soothing piano blanket; but Weiss’s verse delivery is cold and distant, the melody and vocal production recalling Death Cab For Cuties’s 2000 set We Have The Facts and We’re Voting Yes in its haunting echo chamber of isolation. “Old Lace and Ivory” is equally understated, constructing a beautiful scene above soft “ooohs”:
So let me carry you through
Past the old lace and ivory
The tall grass and ivy
The light of the moon
We’ll hide between dunes and later room
Weiss’s lyrical performance is reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World’s 1999 landmark Clarity this time around, trading specificity for little details, just enough for a listener to hold onto while filling in the gaps with endless possibilities of personal experiences. They work best when the soundscape is bare and raw, like in “Old Lace & Ivory.”
This isn’t to say that Into It. Over It. can’t rock out successfully, because they definitely do. The percussion by Joshua David Sparks really brings songs like “No EQ” and “Adult Contempt” to life, with both songs sporting complex and lightning fast beats, tailor made for air-drumming (although I sure as hell can’t keep up). “No EQ” in particular sounds like a future standard for the genre, a song that turns a line like “An aching brain doesn’t process things the same” into something anthemic and unifying.
Standards sees Evan Weiss improving on every facet of his songwriting abilities while retaining all of his identifiable quirks—it refines his lyricism while leaving in his tendency for tongue twisting turn of phrase (“The Circle of the Same Ideas”); it focuses his complex American Football-inspired guitar playing while keeping it interesting and lively (“Who You Are ≠ Where You Are”). All of this growth gives Standards a great chance of being a touchstone for this era of emo, on the level of last year’s Harmlessness or Dealer. But more than that, Standards is just a great album, one that proves that emo is no longer the underdog in 2016.
Jordan Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.