“On the very first line of Intersections, Evan Weiss informs us he’s “traded tobacco for new north side air,” like he’s a familiar friend who can dispense with formalities, just checking in to shoot the shit. This charming and occasionally exasperating quality plays a big part in defining his quasi-solo project Into It. Over It. But if you’re new to Weiss’ output, the backstory is worth relating—prior to his 2011 debut Proper, he’d gained notoriety around Chicago for starting seemingly dozens of bands and serving as a liaison between the upperclassmen of Midwestern emo (Their/They’re/There with Mike Kinsella) and the younger kids establishing the new vanguard. He lived in a van for a spell, playing pretty much every basement and house party that would have him and spent 2007 writing a new song every week. The 52 Weeks collection was finally released in 2009 and many of these songs were titled with the kind of breathtaking mundanity (“Friday At Brian’s (I Have to Be Up in Four Hours)”, “Dude-A-Form (Dude Uniform)” and geographical obsessiveness (“Rapid Shitty, SD”) that presumably went the way of the Get Up Kids.
As a result, Proper often sounded like a record from a guy too deep in the game, “thinking simple and putting life to ink,” as Weiss puts it on Intersections highlight “Obsessive Compulsive Distraction”, an album of sharply written songs that were often dulled by snark and an assumption that you got all the inside jokes and cared about scene politics as much as he did. So like most of IIOI’s work, the proper nouns are less important than the underlying emotion in the mission statement of “New North-Side Air”. On Intersections, it’s “new air” that matters, regardless of its source, and with the assistance of Brian Deck’s production, Weiss’ world opens up in every way and becomes a much more welcoming place to visit.
If not explicitly stated, the aforementioned fresh air registers as an autumn breeze, as the music itself has the physiological feel of a transition season—the crisp brightness and soft-focus melodies make a lot more sense now than they did when I first heard them in summer. And the places referenced by Weiss throughout—suburban Philadelphia, upstate New York and New Haven, CT—evoke college campuses, the turning of foliage and a perpetual amber hue. Deck’s sympathetic production leaves plenty of room for a draft to come through, or, mostly a chill. The songs here anticipate relationships headed towards a bitter frost rather than springing into torrid passion.
Then again, most of the conflicts promised by the title of Intersections play out within Weiss, “just spinning wheels, spinning thread and my spinning head.” It’s cerebral music in that way, where most conversations appear to be one-sided and happening after the fact. And musically, Weiss hears completely logical structure in his head, whereas the listeners encounters all kinds of obtuse turns and strange bridges even within a loose verse-chorus template. This was by design: in an effort to avoid falling back on the pop-punk tropes that otherwise propped up Proper, Weiss plays without a pick on Intersections and drummer Nick Wakim disassembled much of his cymbal setup.
The result is just familiar enough to be referential without becoming derivative—Weiss’ deft, rambling fingerpicked patterns bear a strong influence of Tim Kinsella’s Owen, though IIOI is far more melodic and compact. In his softer vocal register, there’s a boyish and bookish cloaking of mean-spirited sentiments that recalls Ben Gibbard. You’re not gonna mistake Intersections for Deck’s work with Califone or Modest Mouse, though you can hear his influence in how it sounds more rustic and more electronic than Proper—the clacking percussion, ringing guitars and looped vocals in “Contractual Obligations” and “A Curse Worth Believing” stand out as Weiss’ most complex studio productions by a good margin.
But Intersections is also cerebral is the way one might translate as “too smart for its own good.” Weiss hasn’t lost his taste for breakup songs that foreground the narrator’s clever observations as a means of giving him the upper hand. On “Spatial Exploration”, Weiss reminds an ex of the “after hours trading X-rated favors” before asking “what is this new person you’ve become?” She’s getting her shit together in a suburban kind of way, and Weiss doesn’t even allow the possibility that she could be in a happier place. Later during “Upstate Blues”, he warns someone to leave a cozy town where drinkers “soak their twenties into tens/ it’s like their twenties never end.” It’s seemingly compassionate, though lyrics like “upstate blues they could paint your room/ cold and gray like New York and you” reveal a passive-aggressiveness behind it. It’s a standard emo pitfall that can mar otherwise exceedingly melodic and cleverly structured songs, and while perversely satisfying in the correct doses, but the oft accusatory tone of Intersections might unintentionally cause you to see things from the other person’s side.
Above all other transitions invoked on Intersections, the most crucial occurs in the second half where Weiss evolves into more compassionate narrator. “No Amount of Sound” is his riskiest song, a slowcore lament for a hospitalized friend that drops any semblance of humor for incapacitating despondence. Meanwhile, the first half of “The Shaking of Leaves” could be mistaken for a relationship post-mortem where Weiss feels actual sadness rather than justified resentment. Instead, it’s a sequel to Proper’s “Connecticut Steps”, where Weiss tried to process the murder of his friend Mitch Dubey, a musician and cyclist in New Haven. The news surrounding Dubey’s murderraised a lot of uncomfortable questions about race and economics in a very stratified city and makes the concerns of Intersections, as big as they are in the moment of experiencing them, feel pretty damn minute.
And yet, with so much to untangle, “The Shaking of Leaves” finds Weiss deferring for a simple mourning, at his most concise and his most powerful. In a melody that could pass for an Irish drinking song, he feels relief, even joy when the New Haven newspaper says that a killer’s been named. And then he recoils in disgust when it’s revealed the accused gunman is 19 (Tashaun Fair was found not guilty after what many criticized as a botched investigation). About ten minutes later, Weiss is back in his most literal depiction of an overactive mind (“Obsessive Compulsive Distraction”), but when Weiss manages to get outside himself, Intersections uses emo as a step towards something more resonant.”