Pillow Queens – ‘Leave The Light On’

By Tom Walsh

Once the darlings of dive bars and DIY venues, Dublin four-piece Pillow Queens now tread the boards of US talk shows, the smoke-filled rooms of the famous SXSW and sold-out shows in LA. Each show allows their star to shine a little brighter and their sophomore record ‘Leave The Light On’ will ensure that they can continue to blaze a trail across the music industry’s rocky landscape.

‘Leave The Light On’ signals the next evolution in the band’s sound. As they cut their teeth in the pub function rooms and makeshift basement shows, they were spunky upstarts slinging catchy hooks, most notably in their early EP ‘State of the State’. Even then, however, they displayed signs that they could write not just punchy indie songs but also queer anthems for the burgeoning LGBTQ+ scene.

The track ‘Gay Girls’ – which featured on their 2020 debut LP ‘In Waiting’ – was their signature song. A huge celebration of belonging, a memorable chorus that could ring around clubs and, one day, stadiums for years to come. It was a statement song and one that helped to get Pillow Queens noticed on a much bigger stage.

‘In Waiting’ was a triumph and ‘Leave The Light On’ picks up where it left off. Sonically, their latest record is somewhat of a departure from the earlier work; gone are the distinct tones of late-2000s indie rock and in their place is a set of far more atmospheric songs, blending soul and even blues in certain sections.

‘Well Kept Wife’ carries all the airs and graces of lounge music with a swaying groove and a crooning vocal line from bassist Sarah Corcoran. The track has a vulnerability and isolation to it that permeates throughout the rest of ‘Leave The Light On’. Lead single ‘Be By Your Side’ talks valuing those around you that can appreciate you with a knowing nod when you’re at your most vulnerable. It’s a sense of belonging that, even if you don’t finally let go of everything, they’ll be there.

It would be remiss of Pillow Queens to completely leave their indie roots behind and the beautiful ‘No Good Woman’ is as close you can get to “classic PQ”. There’s also the uplifting ‘My Body Moves’, an ode to awkward dancing and those tentative steps into a new relationship. It encompasses all the senses of anxiety, anticipation and that guarded sense of excitement when bringing a new person into your life or being accepted in a new group.

Much like how Pillow Queens placed a bow on ‘In Waiting’ with the anthemic closer ‘Donaghmede’, ‘Try Try Try’ is the indie-power ballad that perfectly wraps up ‘Leave The Light On’.

Each record the Dublin four-piece put out further cements their place as one of the most exciting bands on the indie scene. The evolution from scrappy newcomers from the dive bars of the Irish capital to delighting television audiences across the US has been staggering, but Pillow Queens look completely at home in either setting. The fact that ‘Leave The Light On’ is such a triumph should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, this is just what Pillow Queens do.

TOM WALSH

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