Heavenly · November 12, 2021
Welcome Break is the sophomore album of the Dutch alt-rock quartet Pip Blom. The quartet is led by a vocalist and guitarist of the same name and her brother, Tender. The siblings grew up listening to their parents’ British rock records and these influences are the foundation of Pip’s musical identity; some have even referred to the group’s musical genre as neo-Britpop. Music runs deep in the Blom family. Mom Blom was the sound engineer for Pop Blom’s punk band in the 1980’s (the Rolling Stone’s use of “Pop Blom” was my favorite part of this review). Pip has a casual and unconventional approach to songwriting; in a 2019 interview with Clash Music, she explained that she likes to watch documentaries while playing the guitar and when she “play[s] something on [her] guitar that stands out more than the documentary does, then that becomes something [she] should use.” The final product maintains this quirky, laid-back energy.
Overall, Welcome Break doesn’t make any big splashes or seem like it has much to say. The production of the album feels muddy – the balance between the vocals and instrumentation feels off kilter, with the drums and guitar obscuring Blom’s vocal melody. Instead of building together, the parts obfuscate each other and operate in competition. The mix feels oversaturated with guitar and makes the listener strain to find the hooks and catchy verses that pop is known for. This is largely stylistic; “Blom has said that it’s fine if listeners don’t hear all her words; she ‘finds the melody more personal.’” But, for the most part, these melodies lack the intimacy and substance to foster that personal connection. The songs have repetitive, sometimes droning, lines that fail to hold the attention of the listener. This could be an advantage if someone is looking for a pleasant song to zone out to but comes up short for those looking for a bop.
Despite the fuzzy feeling of the record, there are several tracks that are worth a listen. “Different Tune” is a slower track that provides Pip’s vocals an opportunity to shine through less obstructed. She sings about her doubts in a relationship: “We’ve tried moving, but we’re frozen / Don’t know how to get around / Watch a movie for distraction / Bad idea is one word now.” The live recording of this song is even better, which reinforces the idea that perhaps their biggest obstacle is their stylistic production. The standout of the album is “Faces.” On this track, the quartet’s quirks and style finally come together. The listener gets to appreciate Pip’s songwriting and lyrics, as well as a really fun guitar part, finally working together in a way that the other tracks leave you yearning for.
Pip Blom – as a band, and Pip as a songwriter – have a lot of potential. When they shine through, Pip’s vocals are clever and charming. But, their quirky production and Britpop influences leave their tracks feeling fuzzy without providing the listener quite enough to hold on to. Despite these shortcomings, Welcome Break has some shining moments that demonstrate undeniable talent and spark. Hopefully, by their next release, Pip Blom will hit their stride and bring forth tracks that will break listeners out of a daze rather than lull them into one.