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Give Up the Ghost Once More: Pillow Queens Find Peace in Madness on "Name Your Sorrow"

Updated: May 7

Upon my first listen through of Pillow Queens' new album, Name Your Sorrow, I couldn't help but tingle with an odd feeling of deja vu. I kept thinking to myself that surely I've heard all this somewhere before, and not because I'd listened to the singles already. I also don't mean to imply that this record is derivative of something or someone else either. It was the strangest thing, while my little blue speaker coated the walls in the somber tones of "Blew Up The World" as I paced around my maddeningly tiny dorm room, I found myself singing every word as if I'd been listening to this sing my entire life. And it didn't stop there either. As the chorus of "Friend Of Mine" rattled in, I somehow knew that one; "Notes On Worth," the words just spilled out, like I had been hooked up to that tiny blue speaker on the windowsill. As I continued to scale the length of my room, feeling the speaker reverberate in my heels through the chilled linoleum floor, I found myself stifling a giddy feeling that I'd been waiting for an album like this for a long time.

Name Your Sorrow is a masterful, poignant example of Pillow Queens' ability to spin a compelling story out a guttural and primal feeling. Their knack for chaining down listeners with their brilliantly eerie instrumental style and interwoven intricate narratives set them lightyears ahead of their contemporaries. Name Your Sorrow even stands out amongst their own catalog, quickly jumping to the front of the line with its delightful blend of misshapen genres and speedy lyrical 180's. Lead guitarist Cathy McGuinness described the album as being about "the stages of love, loss and grief and how they can all exist alongside one another–intertwined, messy, beautiful–how both love and loss can coexist."

But most interestingly, at least to this silly little man, is the imagery this record conjures in the minds eye. While on the one hand, you can listen to this album as a simple story about loving and grieving, beginnings and endings, but upon closer inspection, it becomes ever so clear that Name Your Sorrow is about all that beautiful jazz in between; about one night of harsh, drunken epiphanies, of a deep mental laceration that would surely break a lesser individual. But not our hero, no, they press on. They move from bar to bar, drowning their sorrows and cerebral souvenirs in whatever pitiful spill the bartender will serve them before the open sign fizzles off. But no matter how they try, no matter how quickly a drink can drown out a memory, a new one sprints under the spotlight of their minds, reminding them just how quickly it can all change.

But what really cinches up Name Your Sorrow's story, what really makes it the complete and complex album it is, is the record's closer, "Notes On Worth." The specific narrative of this song finds our main character grappling with their fluctuating self worth at the end of the night. Mentally battered and internally flooded, they flip-flop between the notion of being underserving of love or even the fleeting attention of a stranger, but ultimately embark on the long journey home with their "one night wife." But do they ever really make it back with anyone? Do they find comfort in the arms of a stranger at the end of this treacherous midnight maraud, or are these just the ramblings of a heartbroken drunk stumbling down college row as they plead with a higher power to return to them what they have lost.

But who knows for sure? The best whodunnits leave the ending up to the audience's interpretation, and naturally leave them wanting more. Name Your Sorrow is a spiraling sonic mystery and truly a narrative gem, one that Pillow Queens should be more than proud to call their best work yet.

Rob Lucchesi

Pillow Queens


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