By Taylor Dakota
Captivating pop-rock trio Waterparks has finally released their long-anticipated fifth studio album, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, their first release under the record label Fueled by Ramen. Through lively instrumentals, unrestrained lyrics, and more, this genre-bending art piece tells a tale of working through religious guilt and love gone wrong.
Releasing their first EP, Airplane Conversations, in 2012, the Houston-native band’s entire discography has been titled and released alphabetically. In 2021, Waterparks, consisting of vocalist Awsten Knight, guitarist Geoff Wigington, and drummer Otto Wood, unveiled their fourth album, Greatest Hits, which took both the “G” and “H” slots in the systematic lineup.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY is more than just another fifth studio album. Raw, hard-hitting words are paired with astonishing vocals and supported by energetic, emotive instrumentals. And the beautiful production that combines it all is the cherry on top. But if that weren’t enough to showcase the careful consideration put into this project, Knight takes it a couple steps further. From the album’s red and blue color scheme to the frog artwork, every component is meant to illustrate the themes of heartbreak and churchly shame.
Knight opened up about these finer details on social media, saying, “I learned that frogs in a biblical context are viewed as dirty, vile, and impure; the way I’ve felt so many times, even before I realized what it was all rooted in … However, outside of a biblical lens, in other cultures and religions, they’re seen in a positive light … I thought it was so interesting that these beautiful things that bring such light and are perceived as good omens to so many people can also be seen as so foul and awful. And the only difference is the lens they’re being looked at through.”
As for the colors, the vocalist/lyricist has always identified strongly with blue and felt the frog being so would metaphorically place him in its position. It’s surrounded entirely by a vibrant red backdrop to emphasize the album’s different topics of sexuality and imposing audacity. With all those aspects in mind, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY is a clever and creative body of work highlighting the artistic elements behind creating music.
The opening track, “ST*RFUCKER,” starts the album with a bang. This ethereal, fast-paced track sets up both plotlines in the very first verse with the following:
I’m gonna move out of my loft
And into a limousine
So I can drive you fucking crazy
And crash out where I sleep, yeah
Jesus Christ won’t text me back
Though not even two minutes long, the jumpy melodies and straightforwardness of “ST*RFUCKER” excellently prepare listeners for the emotional roller coaster of INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. It also flawlessly transitions into the second track, “REAL SUPER DARK,” a more hardcore song that outlines the album’s darker tone.
The album continues with “FUNERAL GREY,” an upbeat and playful track released in 2022 as INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY’s lead single. With Waterparks describing it as an “outdoor, daytime album,” INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY having songs like this and “BRAINWASHED” that are lighthearted lyrically and cheerful in sound is understandable, despite the album’s morose nature thematically. Even tracks filled with melancholy and regretful lyrics, such as “2 BEST FRIENDS” and “SELF-SABOTAGE,” have a sunny disposition soundwise. Wigington’s wicked guitar skills and Wood’s zealous drumming leave listeners pumped and ready to take on the world.
These brilliant, emotional instrumentals also make the feelings behind INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY’S more serious songs, like “EDGE OF THE WATER (FEEL),” “FUCK ABOUT IT,” and “CLOSER,” so palpable. When listening to this album, the listener’s feelings and emotions are entirely at the will of the three artists behind its creation. Supported, of course, by artful production.
The beauty of this album’s production is especially prevalent in track 8, “RITUAL,” and closing track, “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH.” These are songs that had live performances in mind during their cultivation. They’re also the two songs that best showcase INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY’S religious themes. Knight’s growled, distorted vocals on “RITUAL” are almost demonic in sound and full of spiritual undertones lyrically. And “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH” perfectly ties in both of the albums plots with the lines:
It’s a hell of a time, was I loved or was I right?
I kissed a couple people in a week
Am I gonna go to Hell in my sleep or will God forgive me?
Listening to Waterparks’ INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY is an experience beyond just hearing an album. Every detail was planned to illustrate Knight’s exact thoughts and feelings during the album’s writing. And they’re emphasized even more so by Wigington and Wood’s skilled and moving instrumentals. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY is an album that genuinely encompasses why music is considered an art.