Pillow Queens: In Waiting review – An emotional masterpiece
Pillow Queens Records
“If you remember a thing about it, tell me that it’s not bad. Why’d I even say that?” Sung with a lump in the throat and a downward glance, Holy Show relives the shame in spilling your truth. In the great and occasionally careless navigation of life, the hardest move is being yourself. And on their long-awaited debut album, Pillow Queens mark out the many bumps that eventually lead to self-acceptance.
Wrapping hardship in tulle, the Dublin-based, all-queer indie-pop group give weight to the juvenile – but very real – feelings that shape who we are and how we navigate the world. Pamela Connolly, Sarah Corcoran, Rachel Lyons and Cathy McGuinness bear their battle scars to prove that things do get better.
There’s power in HowDoILook, which walks us down darkened alleys, where we fear for our safety, and into a dimly lit bedroom, where we fear intimacy: “It took a while but I don’t mind. How does my body look in this light?”
Gay Girls and Handsome Wife are key songs for queer visibility in terms of relationships and reassurance. “Well, I won’t worry about the gay girls,” Connolly dictates over swelling harmonies, creating an emboldening anthem for anyone whose coming out moment was met with concern.
And in decadent language that plays off religious iconography, Handsome Wife puts a proud stamp on defying heteronormative expectations: “I may not be the wife you want but I’m pregnant with the virgin tongue.”
There’s a lot of care on this record, for their own bruised hearts and the hearts of others. Liffey, a furiously passionate song, offers forgiveness – “I want to take you with me, to wash and dry your feet” – while Brothers is an emotional masterpiece. “I love my brothers and my brothers love me,” it goes, pouring years of unconditional love for the men in their lives into one wrecking ball of a line.
A strange thing happens when you shed your teenage skin for your adult armour. You gain freedom in many ways but you also lose naivety; your softness sharpened with each emotional disappointment. Something as universal as heartbreak or social displacement can be dismissed on a macro level, but Pillow Queens validate the personal pain. With the added queer lens, In Waiting is a lifeline for people who haven’t yet found their tribe.
“I feel so safe in the warm embrace of the northern bay,” they sing on the cinematic closing track, Donaghmede. To feel safe in yourself and the place you love isn’t always easily won, but Pillow Queens give us hope.