Every Friday, I scour the internet for new music releases. The weekly Friday Awards will highlight my favorite discovery each week, with a special emphasis on artists that are new, new-ish, or new to me.

FANDOM by Waterparks, © 2019 Hopeless Records

If I’m being honest, I did not want to like FANDOM, the third album from Houston, TX-based neo-pop-punkers Waterparks. It’s profane, it’s immature, and even the band name conjures vague memories of distaste from having checked out this band’s singles in the past. Well, the time has come for me to divorce myself from all my unfair dispositions and gleefully admit:

This album is perfect.

I make that bold statement in the context of what this album is trying to be: a modernized version of the pop-punk genre. And what this trio has achieved here is that goal in crystallized form. From the minute-and-a-half-long tease of an opener to the fifteenth track, everything here is a colorful splattering of beautiful production, massive hooks, clever lyrics (“I’d love to be in love with you enough to write a love song“), and most importantly, a tactful and creative balance of modern sounds and synths atop punk guitars and drums.

Fittingly, this is an album set within its time. My immediate reaction is that this album will age surprisingly well — but if not, this might be the perfect album for historians to turn to in order to understand the mental and emotional states of today’s youth. It’s funny, angry, sad, sarcastic, chaotic, sexual frustrated, and more. (It makes a fascinating male-perspective counterpart to Billie Eilish’s debut from earlier this year.) You might not hear any song hit as hard in 2019 across any genre as “Turbulent,” while “Watch What Happens Next” contains a not-so-veiled jab at this year’s most massive hit, “Old Town Road.”

It’s hard to know whether you’ll have the same experience with FANDOM as I did (and maybe that’ll depend on how much you already like this genre or how you’ll react to lyrics like “God’s favorite boy band“), but I found myself entranced against my will, quickly converted, and soon enough, banging my head and air-drumming like a fool to the endless, frothy, complex thrills that this surprising album contains.

10.11.19 Honorable Mentions: Ruston Kelly, The Devil Wears Prada

Author’s Note: For the month of October, I have CD pre-orders available via Kickstarter. I’d love for you to consider supporting the campaign!

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