Review Summary: The steps that I've been taking, carefully curating
It’s satisfying when an artist puts so much effort into a release, and, as a result, the listener is able to tell when hearing the album. Into It. Over It. dug deep effort-wise in the process of creating this record. Feats range from locking themselves inside a cabin in Vermont for a winter for songwriting purposes to producing the album fully on analog tape with the help of producer John Vanderslice. Evan Weiss seems to have really outdone himself for IIOI’s third studio album, but was all of this work worth it? Standards is worth all the work, and it surpasses most expectations in a stunning way, yet falls just short on others.
On a first listen through, you can tell that there was a certain atmosphere that the band wanted to induce. The overall mood of the album is an introspective one, tender yet forthright and enticing yet turbulent. There is a clear dichotomy between the songs on this album, as there are thrilling up-tempo tracks and somber acoustic ballads. Yet, all of the songs seem to flow into one another, whether the transitions are obvious or not. In between the slower ballad “Old Lace & Ivory” and the faster, more straightforward punk-influenced track “Adult Contempt”, there is a beautiful connection found not within the space in between the songs, but the opening and closing melodies of both songs. Every song on here has a purposeful place, and because of this, no track disrupts the mood of the album. Elements like the slick, yet warm production add to the overall atmosphere, as well as the inclusion of various instruments like a string section and piano.
Speaking of the string section, the second to last track “Anesthetic” might just be the most spell-binding track Into It. Over It. has ever made. It’s a slow burning track that carefully blends all of its elements into one delightful moment near the end before the drawn-out vocals caress the listener into the outro’s fade out. Other highlights include “Closing Argument”, an up-tempo track that builds to a fun riff ridden ending, and “Required Reading” that begins with a simple piano loop and escalates into an explosive chorus, aided by Evan’s fantastic vocal performance. My favorite, however, is “Vis Major” which sounds like a pop-punk influenced song at first, but the noodly guitar work combined with a vigorous yet composed chorus makes for an exciting and stimulating track. These songs display that all of the working parts of IIOI are performing at high capacity on this album. There’s the impressive, fierce guitar work, the drumming that intertwines most songs throughout the album, and even Evan’s remarkable vocal deliveries. The vocals themselves are delicate and airy on ballads, and strong and energy ridden when needed most for the climatic choruses. After putting these components together, you would think this album is a new staple for the genre of emo music. Well, not quite.
Although as a whole the album is beautifully delicate and alluring, certain songs by themselves are a bit lackluster. Songs like “Your Lasting Image” provide a nice break from the loud chaos that comes before it, yet, when stripped away from its context, the song is a bit dull and boring, despite how ‘pretty’ it may sound. Even the cute acoustic closing track “The Circle of the Same Ideas” suffers from the same fate as it doesn’t remain interesting enough to justify listening to it by itself. Unfortunately, even the flow of the album can’t save the strange, clunky-sounding song “Bible Belt” as its lo-fi production influences take control, making the transitions within the song interrupt its natural progression. Many songs on this album prove to be not as engaging by themselves as they did in their respective places on the album, and the ballads suffer the most in these cases.
Despite its downfalls, Standards is the the perfect culmination of experimentation that Evan has labored over in his previous two releases. It is well crafted and well thought-out, and this lends to its overall likability. Standards is the LP fans have been wanting Evan to put out for a long time now; and, with this record, all IIOI fans should expect to be satisfied as Standards is the most complete project in Evan’s discography, yet it is not complete enough to call it his masterpiece.