Reviewed by: Matt Kelchner
On Standards, Evan Weiss’ third “official” release for his primary musical outlet, Into It. Over It., the back story alone is enough to write lengthy articles. The journey begins with the “locked up in a cabin” approach with writing partner/drummer Josh Sparks in a remote Vermont location. Then there’s taking the fleshed out, full band iterations of these songs out to San Francisco to work with producer John Vanderslice at his analog only Tiny Telephone Studios. Throughout all of these major points are smaller notables, such as one of Vanderslice’s studio engineers arranging a string quartet for one of tracks (a first for Weiss and Into It. Over It.) or the fact that there are zero explicit references to geographical location (another first).
Then there’s the actual album itself. Standards is Weiss’s most expansive yet, not just with Into It. Over It., but throughout all of his musical endeavors (Pet Symmetry, Their / They’re / There, and about a million others). Recording analog, straight to tape, hinders the meticulous and minute edits within songs that Weiss was accustomed to with his previous albums. It allows for the songs to open up more, both sonically and structurally.
As a whole Standards feels both familiar and new. Songs like “Closing Argument” could have easily fit in amongst Intersections. Then there are other songs, the frantic “Adult Contempt” and slow churning “Anesthetic”, that show Weiss venturing out in new directions and really pushing the boundaries of his songwriting. All the while the Sparks’ impressive drumming, that Weiss himself is not shy to call out, lays the foundation that Weiss then uses to build upon.
A reoccurring theme that is woven into many of the tracks are larger roles piano and synthesizer play. One of the best examples showcasing this elevated role comes with “Who You Are ≠ Where You Are” where piano takes a turn at delivering a short melody amongst guitar and vocals and fat, fuzzy synths battle with distorted guitar and bass towards the end. In “Your Lasting Image” which mixes slow, hazy guitar with sparse, delicate pianos hits and swells of warming synth chords.
Lyrically, Weiss generally comes off as dissatisfied as he moves from song to song. “EQ”, one of the singles released prior, starts off “Born too late, I always find my interests remain in tact just behind the times. A waste of space, expired sound and blueprints”. But in “EQ”, and much of the rest of the album, Weiss intentionally weaves his words vaguely to invite the listener in to explore deeper, underlying meanings.
Careful wordplay between various lines throughout songs is another standout from Standards. Whether it’s the constant trade off between “solo” and “so low” in the aforementioned “Who You Are ≠ Where You Are” or clever word choices that work off of similar syllables in “Your Lasting Image”, Weiss’s strength as a songwriter shines bright from beginning to end.
The success of Intersections from not just the underground punk/emo community, but also on a larger, national scale set the bar for Standards pretty high for both his fans and himself as a songwriter. The new album not only surpasses the expectations for both sides, but lays the groundwork for even more adventurous outputs to come.