Although an oft-repeated grumble, it is resoundingly true that today’s music industry is concerned above all with accessibility, artificiality passed off as ‘the real thing’, and safe bets. Major labels are undoubtedly the biggest criminals here, and even smaller independent labels are being forced into releasing artists that may lack substance but are guaranteed to keep the bank balance healthy. However, all is not lost; a growing number of small labels (for example US independents Topshelf, Triple Crown and Exeter’s own Art is Hard) are fighting back against this corporate mentality, releasing outstanding albums by artists with genuine talent – cue ‘Intersections’, from US singer-songwriter Evan Weiss’s project Into It. Over It.
The second full band album from IIOI, following 2011’s ‘Proper’, ‘Intersections’ displays Weiss’s fascination with organic songwriting and the ‘happy accidents’ that occur in the studio process. A fairly lengthy 12 track affair (closer ‘Contractual Obligation nearly reaches seven minutes), a first look at the tracklist may put some listeners off initially – names include the wordy ‘A Pair of Matching Taxi Rides’. However, fans of the band will recognise this as a continuation of the intelligence and poetic style displayed on previous releases. Vocalist Evan Weiss has the colloquial ‘gift of the gab’ and, more than just a singer, is a storyteller, fitting in as many lyrics as possible on each track (most words being over three syllables). Whilst this may not work for everyone, it gives each track an narrative that is often intensely personal, for example “it seems our vital signs realign at the same time” on acoustic number ‘Your Antique Organ’. Weiss’s appeal lies in his ability to touch of familiar themes (love, pain, new beginnings) in a fresh, poetic and considerate way.
Musically, the album exhibits an impressive variety of textures and moods. Opener ‘New North-Side Air’ is jazzy and shimmering, featuring innovative drumming and instrumentation, whilst personal favourite ‘Upstate Blues’ gives a new life to the tired ‘jangly indie song’. The latter is perfectly suited to those slightly colder autumn days, and gives a sense of the idea that ‘life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall’ (courtesy of F. Scott Fitzgerald). IIOI play around with rhythm and harmony on ‘Intersections’ a fair degree more than on previous releases, demonstrated on ‘Obsessive Compulsive Distraction’ which has an astounding attention to detail and utilises twinkling percussion to beautiful effect. The album benefits hugely from warm, organic production from Brian Deck, who has previously worked with Modest Mouse and Iron & Wine, and IIOI have managed to exploit the possibilities of the studio whilst coming off sounding like a bunch of guys jamming in their apartment. ‘Intersections’ is not for everyone, but it offers a brilliant introduction to the new US indie/alternative scene and is well worth a listen this autumn.
by Joe Stewart, Razz Music Correspondent