For her third album, ‘Bobbie’, Dutch singer-songwriter Pip Blom decided to rip it up and start again. After making her name as one of the brightest indie rock singers around through two albums – 2019 debut ‘Boat’ and 2021 follow-up ‘Welcome Break’ – and a lauded live show honed over gruelling years of touring, the new album sees her take a delightful left turn into thumping, carefree synth pop.
While admitting to the cliché of a guitar-orientated band “grabbing the synths” for album three, this new direction had a real and genuine draw for Blom. Foremost in her mind was cult 2010s English pop band Micachu and the Shapes, led by the effervescent Mica Levi. Across four studio albums and a number of artist monikers, Levi’s band made colourful and vivacious pop music that burst outwards from a grounding in indie music. On ‘Bobbie’, Blom makes similar jumps and blows her own musical landscape wide open.
On her previous albums, Blom wrote songs on the guitar, hoping that the studio process would then allow her to live out her pop dreams through final flourishes added during the recording process. “But we were always then running out of time,” she remembers, “and they ended up as just guitar-y albums.” For ‘Bobbie’, work with synthesisers and computers began from the very beginning, and she recruited producer Dave McCracken in a co-writer role to make sure the vision was fully realised.
It’s hardly a surprise, then, that Blom immediately feels utterly at home in her new clothes on‘Bobbie’. Lead single ‘Tiger’ introduces the new sound in the catchiest, most sugary way possible via a booming synth line and a superbly catchy chorus. “It’s my favourite song off the album,” Blom says of the comeback single. “It’s quite different to what we’ve done before. I don’t want to sound arrogant, and I find these things difficult to say about my own tracks, but it’s quite an ear worm! It’s good to surprise people with a new sound, and though it still sounds like a Pip Blom track because it has my voice on it and the melodies I tend to write, it’s from a different source. I wanted to be bold and do something new.”
From there, ‘Bobbie’ honours the Pip Blom of old and passes the baton on to a bold new era. ‘I Can Be Your Man’ and ‘Where’d You Get My Number?’ are the best examples of the past and future of the project coming together perfectly, with gritty, distorted guitars thrashing a way alongside bubbling synths. Elsewhere, ‘Fantasies’ and ‘Again’ are darker takes on the new synth direction, while the indie rock of ‘Brand New Car’ is peppered with chopped up vocals and a delightfully disruptive energy.
To immerse herself in this new way of working, Blom worked on the album in separate, intensive bursts of creativity, based around a series of non-stop five-day studio jaunts in her native Netherlands. “I didn’t leave for the entire five days, and just continued writing and writing and writing,” she remembers of the sessions. “I was going kind of mad, but was completely inthe zone.” The songs were then sent to McCraken – whose credits include Jay-Z and KanyeWest – to gain a little more “clarity” and be trimmed into the tight, punchy pop hits that make up the new album.
Also on hand to help her achieve her longtime vision were a pair of collaborators that contribute to two of the album’s highlights. Blom’s partner and vocalist of fellow Dutch indie band PersonalTrainer, Willem Smit, joins her on the duet ‘Kiss Me By The Candlelight’, a song lifted from an unreleased project from the pair that recalls Metronomy in its minimal, funky disco pop.Elsewhere, McCracken helped her push through initial shyness to reach out to Alex Kapranos of former Pip Blom tour mates Franz Ferdinand, who hops on the album’s giddy highlight, ‘Is This Love?’. “He made such a funky chorus,” Blom beams of her collaborator, and ‘Is This Love?’ is the album’s purest shot at pop gold, seeing two indie artists live out their shimmering pop star dreams. It’s an utter delight, with Blom and Kapranos pushing each other higher and higher.
As well as a musical eureka moment, ‘Bobbie’ is also a lyrical evolution for Blom. “I always find lyrics difficult because I’m not a native speaker,” she says. “I find it hard to spend time on them because it feels a bit forced.” For the new album, she wrote what she calls ‘guide books’ of the general themes and ideas wanting to be tackled, before teaming up with McCracken to sculpt them into songs. “I then wanted to fine tune them a bit more to check I wasn’t making any grammar mistakes, but I think Dave kept some of them in the tracks, because he liked the factI’m not a native speaker and said it was charming.” Indeed, it’s a key element of what gives‘Bobbie’ its character, unique perspective and irresistible draw.
Everything on this brilliantly focused 12-track album flows towards its closing track, ‘7 Weeks’. Towards the track’s conclusion, Blom’s vocals are twisted into vibrant new shapes with help from Auto-Tune, stretching her new sonic direction even further. Despite the huge strides taken on album three, it appears to confirm that ‘Bobbie’ is only the next step in Pip Blom’s journey, and far from a final destination. “I wanna start again,” she and the band sing together to send the album off, revolutionising their sound in the most thrilling of new beginnings. So, so much more is sure to come. ♫♪♪
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Having supported Warmduscher, Katy J Pearson, Audiobooks, Lime Garden, Insecure Men, Let’s EatGrandma, and Girl Ray, 2022/3 has been a bit of a whirlwind for divine disco diva – and recent MoshiMoshi signing – Vanity Fairy.
A sparkling starlet of the underground East London scene, Vanity’s debut EP ‘Love From Above’ spins a nostalgia-laden world that plays with kitsch-pop tropes and revels in the hedonistic indulgences of classic disco. But there’s also something strange at work here. Far from being content to ape her be-dazzled Studio 54 idols, Fairy adds something new to the mix. It’s a bittersweet, playful, wistful sensibility that works itself out in a sound that both reveres and toys with the music she loves with all her heart.
Between her shimmering vocal falsetto (which has been compared to everyone from Barry Gibb to Kate Bush) and onstage theatrics, the iconic disco darling is earning a reputation as one of the most mesmerising live performers around.
With a new EP set for release, and more exciting live news soon to be unveiled, 2023 looks set to be a stunner for the high priestess of underground disco-pop.
Vanity Fairy is on a messianic, hedonistic one-woman-mission to spread one simple emotion to audiences everywhere: JOY! ♫♪♪