[Image Courtesy of Into It. Over It.]
Into It. Over It.
Triple Crown, 2013.
by Trevor Johnson
Two years ago Into It. Over It. released Proper, the first fully conceived, full band release from the outfit. Normally, IIOI is immediately described as the brainchild and pen name of singer-songwriter Evan Weiss. Proper, however, unlike anything before it under the same flag, was not the work of a solo artist. The album plays like the expressions of four musicians finally able to get together in the same place and write energetic, electric songs as a whole. It arrived in a grand way, a collection of upbeat pop-emo that fans had seen from Weiss in glimpses but never gotten in full. Two years later, we have Intersections, an album with drums and amps, keys and bass, but an album very much presented by a solo artist stretching his limbs into new territory.
When the first words of your album are “I laid down last year…”, you’re making a statement about most of what follows, whether you like it or not. Those lines open “New North-Side Air”, an ode to his home, Chicago, and settling in, presumably as an artist, a partner and a man approaching his 30s. “Hung up on aging but letting my age start to show,” he admits, “here I go again.” It all seems familiar enough as Weiss spills over drums and a slidey guitar riff, the style of which has always been a staple of his sound; one no doubt picked up from another Chicago songwriter: Mike Kinsella of Owen. Almost out of nowhere, you’re tumbling through a chorus, quickly altering unconventional minor and major chord combinations, over to sevenths, and back to major, etc. It’s very unexpected. Some will get off the ride there and then. This album probably wasn’t for them in the first place. Weiss eventually settles his anxieties – for track one, anyways – by conceding “Fate’s got the keys to this place.”
“Spinning Thread” gives us starts and fits, like a teenager learning to drive a stick-shift. It’s percussion-dominant, mid-tempo pop with a flare for starts and stops similar to that of Hey Mercedes or a very poppy Slint. Similarly drum dependent, “No Amount of Sound” is far slower in tempo and less successful. It drags on through bursts of distorted bass and feedback amidst the darkest progression of the record. While an interesting departure from the twinkly, quick-handed guitars throughout much of the album, it’s underdeveloped and comparatively less interesting.
However, the album stands tallest in it’s center, where consecutive tracks deliver as strong as any in Weiss’ catalogue. “Upstate Blues” calls back ten years to early Motion City Soundtrack with booming, well executed vocals over a pop song that constantly works through dynamic changes and nicely placed “whoa-ohh”’s. The chorus is so strong it succeeds at multiple tempos with each one feeling equally natural. “The Shaking of Leaves” starts with an acoustic guitar, notes hammering on and off atop each other, a riff that snaps sharply back to it’s start each time. As tones swell and fade in accompaniment, Weiss enters gently: “Late this afternoon I heard your voice/ It was the first time in what felt like years.” What follows, amidst a flurry of percussion, like wooden gears grinding and ticking dissonantly as one, is heartbreaking.
“Leaves” is tribute Mitchell Dubey. Throughout Northeast punk and hardcore circles, Dubey was a beloved character in the mid and late 2000s. On the night of March 24, 2011, Mitch Dubey was shot and killed by a home invader as his roommates looked on. He was 23. It starts as merely a breeze, a perfectly normal occurrence, one you almost don’t notice until it cuts straight to bone and leaves you reeling. It’s that beautiful instant of remembering just how much you care for a person and then the terrible recollection that they have departed. Mourning has crests and troughs. Weiss gives us all a reference point for that feeling; that one of the toughest lessons in life is learning how to miss people. We honor the ones we miss by carrying on without them, as they’d want, but it doesn’t diffuse the guilt one feels when they realize ‘my life has actually gone on’. “The Shaking of Leaves” will honor Mitch every night in a different city.
There are several new devices for Weiss on this album. The stark use of keys throughout, the slight brush kit keeping “A Curse Worth Believing” from bursting into a million tiny riffs, the distorted bass and acoustic guitar that constantly build towards nothing in “Your Antique Organ”. All the while, his vocal style remains true to what it has always been. Weiss is constantly singing a mouthful, displaying a swimmer’s lung capacity while shouting. Multiple songs drag on and become skippable after a few listens. But the growth shown here trumps what most would have expected following Proper.
Throughout Intersections “your twenties” are mentioned frequently. They appear to be a decade Weiss both clings to and anxiously waits to escape. Whether it’s the death of a friend, settling down, the mounting distaste for peers that won’t grow up, or a dislike for large swaths of the music you love, this album acknowledges it all as a time for growth. Sonicly, this is Weiss expanding from the wave of emo from which he began, into new genres and levels of maturity. It applies well to getting older: when you’re right, you hope it’s in a way others have yet to develop and when you’re wrong, you hope that even the harshest critics can see your logic. On Intersections, elements that aren’t quite there could still be close behind.