Named after their lead singer, Pip Blom are a young alternative indie band from the Netherlands. Having got rotation on indie radio stations, played festivals in Europe and the UK, and toured as support for acts like the Breeders, Pip Blom have garnered a sizeable fanbase that has enabled them to headline across mainland Europe, the UK, the US, and Ireland.
The band makes for a joyous live experience, with performances filled with youthful vigour, non-stop frenetic energy, and sincere pleasure that transcends the audience. The major criticism to be had of their debut album, 2019’s Boat, was that it failed to capture any of what makes Pip Blom a mesmerising live act in a studio setting, and the album ended up as a dark fog of indie-pop with a few highlights being visible from time-to-time. Their sophomore release, Welcome Break, really shines in all the areas where Boat failed to.
Does Welcome Break manage to capture the appeal of seeing Pip Blom live? Not really, but it comes closer on this release than on its predecessor. Admittedly, it’s probably too early in the band’s career to suggest a live album just yet. Until then, look up a live performance online, or, better yet, see them live if you get the chance. The odd thing is, there isn’t exactly a world of difference between Boat and Welcome Break in terms of music or production. Boat, in many ways, feels like a test run for this album, like, “OK, let’s get some of our lesser material recorded for this one to test the waters of making a record, then, next time, we’ll make a really good record!” Of course, that’s not what actually happened, but listening to the two albums back-to-back, you can see a leap forward in quality, yet the songs sound very similar, both from a songwriting perspective, as well as how it was produced and mixed.
In contrast to Boat, however, this album is self-produced and mixed by Caesar Edmunds, who has worked with everyone: Queens of the Stone Age, PJ Harvey, St. Vincent, Royal Blood, Ozzy Osbourne, Foals, and Trent Reznor, to name just a few so that it may have benefited from the personal touch of self-production in addition to the mixing work of a seasoned professional with a plethora of different experience. To highlight the effectiveness of this, the contrasting vocals of Pip and guitarist and brother Tender Blom on “Keep It Together” really slapped this reviewer in the face. It was so powerfully well done. It was a great choice for the first single on the album. Throughout the entire album, the production never falters.
Beyond production, that band have grown significantly as songwriters and musicians, which can probably be taken for granted: logic would dictate that the more you do things, the better you get at it. Thematically, the songs are filled with a lot of the same topics present on Boat, such as sour relationships, self-reflection and introspection, insecurity and doubt, existential dread and uncertainty, and toxic people. Even though these topics have been explored before, they feel more mature on Welcome Break, and it is like Pip is having her “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” moment; calling out abusive and toxic people and making it clear that their problems are not her own.
Lyrically, the most resonating song is “I Love the City,” a song that could only have been written from the experience of touring that the band has experienced over the past half of a decade. The song tries to reconcile the homesickness, disorientation, and forgetfulness from excessive touring with the contrasting joy of performing live. It should also be noted that Pip Blom, despite being a Dutch band, write all of their songs in English. Hopefully, in the half-century since ABBA thought it necessary to perform in English for any chance of international success, artists from non-English speaking countries don’t feel performing in their native language will affect their chances of success internationally, and that performing their songs in English is an artistic choice, rather than a requirement.
Welcome Break is pretty much a perfect album. Scanning over the tracklist one last time before penning this review, this reviewer couldn’t pick a single track that they felt stood out as subpar or faulty. Every track on the album could be pushed as a single, and that alone is probably enough testimony to its quality. This is one of the best records of the year. Don’t sleep on it.