The Dutch quartet Pip Blom spent a couple years releasing home-recorded songs, mid-fi EPs, and the occasional single, all the while refining and honing their '90s indie rock-loving sound into something sleek, sharp, and powerful. When they went into the studio to record their first album, they were ready for their closeup, and the result is something special. Boat has all the hallmarks of classic indie rock -- loud/quiet dynamics, crashing cymbals, guitar overload, yearningly off-kilter vocals, and hooks that cut flesh while breaking hearts -- while never sounding like the youngsters in the band were doing a homework assignment for music class. It never feels calculated or cynical; they invest their tried-and-true approach with vigorous energy and dedication. They also have a great asset in chief songwriter and vocalist Pip Blom herself. When she sings, she twists the melodies around like she's examining each word before reluctantly letting them go; it's a disarming approach that's instantly arresting. Tie that vocal style to the incisive words and oft-tipsy melodies, and it's hard not to be drawn into the world of Pip Blom the person and Pip Blom the band. The arrangements are perfectly pitched, too, with dynamic shifts that feel organic and just the right mix of rough and smooth to make the songs really pop. Almost any track could be singled out for praise -- most of them sound like singles. "Ruby" is the most immediate of the batch, as its chorus is a roaring blast of non-yucky grunge nostalgia, "Don't Make It Difficult" is an upbeat post-punk rambler, "Sorry" jangles like a lost Amer-indie single on Teen-Beat, and the rest of the album is a rambunctious, effervescent guitar-pop delight made by kids who really know what they are doing. At a time when so many bands co-opt various sounds of '90s indie rock and don't add anything new or interesting, Pip Blom make it work on Boat by basically becoming a '90s indie rock band and doing it better than anyone else around. Maybe even better than most of the bands they are borrowing from, too.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra