‘Highly anticipated’ is a cliché attached to many debut albums, but after four years of EP releases and relentless touring, In Waiting from Dublin’s Pillow Queens has lived up to its title. Brooding melodies, fuzzy guitar and hazy harmonies meet anthemic choruses in this cathartic exploration of being young in modern Ireland.
Recorded in rural Donegal, the LP sees Pillow Queens grapple with spirituality and religion, family, politics and the crises of late-stage capitalism. Touching on everything from queer identity to life and gentrification in the Irish capital, impassioned vocals channel the anger of punk into rousing indie rock. In a country where almost half of people aged 25 to 29 still live at home with their parents, this frustration is tangible.
‘Handsome Wife’, a single from 2019, is a rejection of the nine-to-five, marriage and kids, white picket fence lifestyle that still feels expected even in today’s society. Riff-driven and urgent, the eponymous wife, “pregnant with the virgin tongue”, ponders how she ended up “sitting sweet in the passenger seat”. This enduring impact of church and tradition permeates In Waiting and the LP is littered with religious language (‘Child of Prague’, ‘Liffey’). This difficult legacy is never more poignant than on ‘Gay Girls’, in which singer and guitarist Sarah Corcoran recounts her struggle with her sexuality as a child and how she tried to pray it away. The track feels defiant but with an underlying angst, bringing Corcoran’s unapologetic Dublin accent to the fore. Even with its painful origins, ‘Gay Girls’ is a rallying cry of self-acceptance and is meant to be chanted.
Despite the message of togetherness and shared frustration on the record, Pillow Queens suggest that change is self-motivated. On ‘HowDoILook’, they detail how learning to see the beauty in your own so-called flaws “took a while” but now they “don’t mind”. However, this is an uphill battle; over crashing drums they still wonder, “how does my body look in this light?”
In Waiting sounds like a band who have taken the time to craft the record they really wanted to make. The album cover shows a couple in the back seat of a car, lips brushing and teetering on the edge of a kiss. In Waiting captures these fleeting moments of the romance and anxiety of your twenties, not feeling like you’re truly into adulthood yet and wondering if you ever will.
This review was originally written for Dig With It magazine.