Every Second Feels Real
Pillow Queens introduced themselves to us in 2017 with Calm Girls, a three-track EP that combined the American sounds of garage rock and 90s pop-grunge with the distinctly Dublin pronunciation of the word rat (rah). Such colloquial inflections left Sarah Corcoran’s abrasive storytelling dripping with both personality and believability. After familiarising themselves with the mud and the rain on Ireland’s festival circuit, the four-piece released their second and more obviously political EP, State of the State. This release also displayed a notable maturation of their skills in the studio and earned them support slots with the likes of Pussy Riot and Idles. Their debut album, In Waiting, sees the group fine-tune their sound and message without sacrificing their grit.
While writing and recording in Attica Audio studios in rural Donegal, the band committed themselves to a deeper analysis of the topics they’ve focused on since their origin, such as self-love, queer love, the slow drift into adulthood and those we drift with; weaving politics of the self with politics of the state, intertwining the personal and the universal and providing an argument for the co-existence of the two.
There’s an element of musical nostalgia throughout the record, most of which would not feel out of place accompanying the closing credits of an American teen film circa 1997. This is achieved by way of hopeful and romantic major-chord progressions, played with a powerful angst. Tracks build naturally, tending to climax as they’re on their way out. The album closer ‘Donaghmede’ is perhaps the best example of this. Lead guitar is bright and summery, gaining extra emotional weight with a dense and fuzzy rhythm section. ‘Child of Prague’ is another excellent execution of the same combination.
Luscious layers of vocal harmonies are a constant, at their best in ‘HowDoILook’ and the album’s opener, ‘Holy Show’. Guitars, too, are stacked, building a house of grungy resonance. ‘Handsome Wife’ opens with a Suede-esque two-note riff that bays and yearns until it’s relieved by a euphoric and grooving chorus, while the descending power-chord progressions on tracks like ‘A Dog’s Life’ will sound familiar to fans of Weezer and The Dandy Warhols.
Pillow Queens prosper by way of their honest and emotional lyricism and performances. ‘HowDoILook’ chronicles the long road to self-love and acceptance. ‘It took a while but I don’t mind,’ concludes Corcoran. Such lyrics are always delivered passionately, almost as if the band are singing to their teenage selves. They do this with both warning and reassurance.
Blend this with the pop-inflected melodies and they’ve got all the hallmarks of an adolescent favourite. Yet the lyrics are sophisticated enough to reward any listener. Perhaps the most touching moment is on ‘Brothers’, a stirring outpouring of gratitude towards those who help us deal with grief and those we share it with – ‘I love my brothers and my brothers love me’.
The songwriting is, at times, formulaic, with songs often following a similar pattern. However, there isn’t much time to dwell on this between the sheer enjoyment of infectious hooks and truly personal and affecting storytelling.
In Waiting is an inspiring album, pouring out rousing, emotional chorus melodies and loveable chord progressions. Corcoran’s lyricism is life-affirming and her delivery powerful. The comradery alluded to in ‘Brothers’ is present throughout the album. It’s there in every heartfelt vocal harmony and every climactic outro jam. The stories feel so genuine and the emotions feel so honest. Every second of this album feels real.
To purchase In Waiting, visit https://pillowqueens.bandcamp.com/album/in-waiting-2
Published on 15 October 2020
Jake Tiernan is bass-player with the band Turnstiles and writes a blog at https://waxlyrical667328945.wordpress.com. He was a participant in the Journal of Music/Galway City and County Council Music Writer Mentoring Scheme in 2019.