Evan Thomas Weiss of Into It. Over It. is a linchpin of Chicago’s emo scene, though he spends much of his time seemingly anywhere but here, touring with one project or another—last year he was on and off the road with Pet Symmetry. Weiss kicked off 2015 by hunkering down in a Vermont cabin with IIOI full-band drummer Josh Sparks (a founding member of Slow Mass and Recreational Drugs) to write the group’s third proper album, Standards. Triple Crown releases Standards on Friday, and the whole album is streaming at Entertainment Weekly, a small sign that Weiss’s audience is growing. And Standards is a great introduction for newcomers.
I realize I’ve called lots of Weiss’s releases a “great introduction” since I began covering him in the Reader in 2010. Not that I take any of that back. Weiss has improved and grown as a songwriter through the years, and it’s been a pleasure to hear him finesse his sound and see him play larger and larger rooms.
His songs have helped me frame my understanding of part of the local scene since I set down roots here in 2009, and also I’ve apparently developed an uncanny ability to run into Weiss during my daily routines—more than once I’ve encountered him on a coffee break while he’s in town for a handful of days between lengthy treks on tour. Some people have a favorite stretch of road or a particular dive bar that enriches their affection for a city. Weiss, as a musician and a person, has helped me feel at home in Chicago.
It’s been more than five years since I first saw Weiss play, at defunct Logan Square space Strangelight, and there’s an awareness of time and aging on Standards. Though the music moves with unencumbered grace, it feels broken in—the album opens with Weiss singing about divorced friends struggling with thirtysomething malaise. Indie-rock veteran John Vanderslice produced Standards, helping Weiss shape these clear-eyed, autumnal songs. The gently swaying “Anesthetic,” today’s 12 O’Clock Track, is the most ethereal, touched up with a bevy of strings—but even with what sounds like a mini-orchestra in the wings, the best thing about the song is Weiss’s tender, somber vocals.
Weiss plays a free acoustic solo set at Reckless Records in Wicker Park on Friday, March 11; I hope “Anesthetic” is on his set list. The in-store starts at 6 PM.