Pillow Queens: Leave the Light On review – brooding, atmospheric indie

(Royal Mountain Records)
The classy second album from the Dublin alt-rock four-piece is steeped in hard-won wisdom and catharsis

Dublin four-piece Pillow Queens make guitar music that is unconcerned with attracting attention. There are no memorable choruses, no outlandish lyrics, no experimental sounds. This is atmospheric indie, determined to cultivate a vibe rather than relay a particular message or advertise an individual personality. On their second album, Leave the Light On, that vibe is mainly brooding unease, sometimes explosive frustration, frequently steeped in a sense of hard-won wisdom and bittersweet catharsis.

The nature of the lyrics – abstract, impressionistic imagery that strives to make sense on an emotional level rather than a literal one – means it’s difficult to be more specific than that, although themes do sometimes emerge. The main preoccupations are oppression – both female (Well Kept Wife) and financial (No Good Woman) – and romantic dysfunction: either a wild desperation to deeply connect (a forlorn lover wants to “feel every pulse to the shake in your leg” on the alternately rumbling and soaring Be By Your Side), or a realisation that connection has, inevitably, soured.

Sonically, the album evokes the work of Americana-influenced alt-rock musicians such as Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and even the Killers – a sound that is both epically transcendent and comfortingly gritty. Pillow Queens add a few more extended shredding sessions to the template, but they largely stick within the bounds of this classy, serious style. It’s not one that gives the group a particularly distinctive flavour, but it is at least able to contain all the feelings of confusion, fury, outsized desire and whatever else the listener wants to extrapolate from this evocative if slightly nebulous record.


Rachel Aroesti

The GuardianTramp

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