Album Review: Into It Over It – ‘Figure’
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In 2020, Evan Thomas Weiss is no longer interested in being Mayor of Emo City. After establishing Into it. Over it. as a perhaps reluctant “Midwestern emo revival” heavy-hitter after albums Proper (2011) and Intersections (2013), he’s content to let someone else take up the baton. What the solo musician is interested in doing, however, with his first full-length album since 2016’s Standards is learning how collaboration can take his songwriting to another plane. The resulting Figure is covered in myriad fingerprints: engineered by Matthew Jordan, Adam Beck, and Mark Michalik; produced by Jordan, Beck, Michalik, Jason Cupp, and Weiss; mixed by Cupp (Jimmy Eat World, American Football, Maps & Atlases) with assistance from Jordan, Beck, and Weiss; mastered by Dave Kutch (American Football, Lana Del Rey, Solange). Writing, composition, and performance credits are also lengthy: Weiss, Beck, Jordan, Zack Warpinski, and Andrew Emil.
Though it’s a labor of love from the labor of many, Figure charts a deeply personal story of Weiss leaning on his Chicago community to piece together a life he had broken: returning from touring in 2016 only to end a relationship, take on a 9-to-5 job to pay the bills, and grapple with his touring debt. Weiss isn’t afraid of embracing that darkness on the album’s 12 tracks, culled down from more than 30 that Weiss wrote with Beck. “This is the night where our ending starts,” Weiss sings in the first line of opener “They Built Our Bench Again in Palmer Square.” “This is the evening where I break your heart.”
The lyrics—which just might comprise a concept album—see Weiss weave through Chicago going through the stages of grief and contemplating what his life will hold for him. In track No. 5, “Courtesy Greetings,” he’s facing the consequences of his actions in Logan Square bar East Room: “Form to find our confrontation in the East Room / It’s about time I fessed up / Delay the process while I pick up your tab and leave the bar anxious and messed up / It’s about time I come to terms with who I’ve become.” Track No. 7 finds Weiss wondering—and wandering—at Logan Square’s Best Intentions and Slippery Slope, pondering, “So what’s right when everything I’ve always known is wrong? / I wake up and wonder.” To add an extra layer of melancholy, many of these beloved Chicago watering holes have closed during the pandemic, some permanently.
The tour of Chicago’s northwest side woven throughout the lyrics is mirrored by the recording process; Figure was recorded “during weekends, weeknights, off days, snow storms, and heat waves at Wright On Carroll, Type One Recording, Shure Incorporated, Emaciated Raiden, and Mark Michalik’s garage”—all located in Chicago. While most of Figure delves into the end of a relationship, it doesn’t take long to realize that the album is also a love letter to the city.
The music isn’t always bleak. The No. 2 slot features a driving, poppy, Bleed American-era Jimmy Eat World-esque bop in “Living Up To Let You Down” (it is, after all, the summer of that big Jimmy Eat World sound). Really, it’s like Jimmy Eat World covering Robyn; the kind of song you find yourself in your living room (previously, perhaps again one day, a bar) dancing to and crying to simultaneously.
Indeed, fuzzy, distorted guitars, energetic bass lines, and persistent synth beats in “Living Up To Let You Down,” “Courtesy Greetings,” and “We Prefer Indoors” keep the energy high even when Figure’s peaks dip to valleys with acoustic twinkles and languid, mathy arrangements (“A Lyric In My Head I Haven’t Thought Of Yet,” “A Light In The Trees”). By the album’s penultimate song, “A Lyric In My Head I Haven’t Thought Of Yet,” Weiss is thinking “all along Armitage Avenue” of all the identical evenings he’s spent “where the faces change, but the results remain the same.” “I don’t need these evenings to repeat if we’ve had enough time,” he sings. “So have we had enough time?”
Figure presents more questions than answers, but in foregoing his usual solitary process and opening up his music to collaboration, Weiss not only worked through his personal demons; he reached a place in his songwriting that doesn’t have to carry the weight of “Midwestern emo” or anything else on its shoulders. As this particular scene and Weiss forge their paths forward, they both find themselves in an unfamiliar place. A deviation from what came before it doesn’t diminish Figure; on the contrary, Weiss writing something that sounded like “Midnight: Carroll Street” in 2020 would have felt forced, inauthentic. Figure is an innovative sound for Into it. Over it, just as Standards was following Intersections. The experience of making Figure was clearly deeply cathartic for Weiss, and that’s enough. That it also happens to be the best Into it. Over it. record of his career is all the better.
Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal
Michelle Bruton | @MichelleBruton
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