With their 2019 debut Boat, Amsterdam’s blossoming brother-sister band sent buzzy guitars and poppy hooks zipping across the English Channel, landing them a UK headline tour and an opening slot on Glastonbury Festival’s John Peel Stage. Boat floated with youthful ebullience, like the start of a relationship—the beginning of their career. While Welcome Break retains much of the playfulness of that album—it’s named for the British roadside services chain—it feels less like a happy accident and more a self-conscious effort to do the same again.
With the eponymous songwriter Pip at the helm, her brother Tender on guitar, Darek Mercks on bass, and Gini Cameron on drums, Pip Blom put their best Birkenstock forward with “Keep It Together”, the album’s lead single. Its cheerful sun-pop temperament is as colorful as its music video, in which the quartet parodies an ’80s workout tape with athleisure-adorned dancers and Top of the Pops-esque miming. The verses balance Pip’s pretty guitar chords with Tender’s bombinating lead, and a triumphant wall of sound rushes forth for one of the punchiest choruses the band has ever delivered.
Welcome Break keeps British jangle pop and ’90s American slacker rock on Pip’s mood board, but the band have inarguably found their sound and thoroughly relaxed into it. Pip’s voice flutters with the unassuming friendliness of a teaching assistant, the guitars anchor themselves to certain motifs or chord patterns that recur slightly differently throughout, and there’s a coltish Ringo-like buoyancy to Cameron’s drums. On “Faces”, the most Pip Blom song Pip Blom has ever piped into our ears, all of their favored ingredients simmer in perfect harmony. There’s the quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic, the lighthearted bickering of the siblings’ guitars, and the simplistic melancholy of the lyrics: “Want to go back to how it used to be / Yes, I still love you / Not this version of me.”
A theme across the record is Pip’s discontent with her relationship and her search for a committed, adult one: “You gotta work out what you want,” she chants on the Dave Grohlian pummeler “Not Easy to Like”. Similarly, the plod rocker “It Should Have Been Fun” is about being gaslighted and losing faith in your partner. “What I thought you said and what you said I did / It isn’t adding up / It makes me feel so weird,” Pip sings. She is over the butterflies of nascent romance and wants something stable and rewarding, revealing her relationship woes with an archetypally Dutch matter-of-factness, as though we are hearing one side of a telephone conversation. Nothing is disguised. However, that does mean there isn’t very much to dig through, and this isn’t necessarily an album that rewards repeat listening.
Pip Blom stand out from their female-fronted indie-rock contemporaries for their direct and low-maintenance ping-pong pop. But while songs like “Daddy Issues” and “Tired” from their previous record sounded like an exciting beginning, at times, Welcome Break can sound, well, tired (see: “I Love the City”). Then again, as Pip sings on “Easy”, “You want excitement after all / Understand that those new adventures will get old.” She has a point: The album may sound like a band ready to settle into a long-term relationship—happy that they don’t need to push the boat out further than Boat—but one can’t stay in the honeymoon period forever. I’d choose a monogamous relationship with Pip Blom (the band) over a break-up any day.