Evan Weiss has had a tough time of it. Since his last outing as Into It. Over It. his life has come apart at the seams, and Figure, his first record in four years, sees him narrate his reconciliation with himself and how his own hand may have unpicked some of the stitches.
First on his list of sins is “They Built Our Bench Again In Palmer Square”; a death knell for his relationship. “We finally speak to off-set the sound / Of blaring silence as we’re counting down / The smoldering ash scattered on the ground,” Weiss admits with just a twinge of heartbreak as newest collaborator Adam Beck’s atmospheric rhythm pulls him forward – no matter how hard he might want to look back.
Weiss has been forming his status as one of the elder statesmen of the emo scene right since 2011’s debut album Proper, but it’s only now that he’s grown into his position. Where he used to be all about a cutting remark or a youthful scenester reference, here he doesn’t shy away from himself, from his own messiness and imperfections.
This is not just lyrically, either. A somewhat more collaborative approach to what has always previously been a ‘solo’ project has allowed his sound on Figure to – not necessarily mellow – but become unmuddied. Intricate guitar work and strained emotion is a sound that Weiss has been cultivating for going on 10 years, but now he’s able to add anthemic to his roster. This is largely due to frolics with electronics, which whittle away till they’ve enmeshed themselves into the hook of Weiss’ vocals on songs like “Living Up To Let You Down” or the twinkling “Breathing Patterns”. The latter is up there with Weiss’ most fragile recordings, and it’s not hard to imagine crowds waving lighters as he deftly sings “If I stick to what I know then I’m just stuck to what I’ve done / Still sore from being burned by every fire I’ve begun.”
“Courtesy Greetings” sees him develop an understanding of himself and how an apology doesn’t always do the job: “We’re falling apart but insisting that everything’s fine / Sharing courtesy greetings confirming we’re nice but not kind.” In this age of perpetual self-improvement, this is a guidebook to first recognising that something needs to be done. Lyrically, Into It. Over It., as the name itself suggests, has always been somewhat cynical and world-weary, and Figure is a record of reality, no matter how punchy some of these melodies might be (particularly “We Prefer Indoors”). Cynicism has been traded for brutal honesty; quips for regrets, guilt, loneliness and fear.
Somehow, between all of these feelings, Weiss manages to sound even more melodic than before. The gritty rawness of his earlier work isn’t gone, there’s still the crack in his throat, especially during his strained almost-shouts, but his delivery and cadence has smoothed over and become more taut where it needs to. Just see highlight “A Lyric in My Head I Haven’t Thought of Yet” for a concoction of everything he has to offer now.
Despite the troublesome personal events during his band’s four year absence, Figure is a strong return. If there’s one thing Evan Weiss can be certain of at this point in his life, it’s that Into It. Over It. and his reputation are here to stay.