Born out of the ashes of indie-pop trio Golden Grrrls, Sacred Paws untethered themselves in the name of rhythm. Guitarist and vocalist Rachel Aggs felt her inherent inner beat was one she shared with Golden Grrls drummer Eilidh Rodgers, and that it was one that wasn’t confined to the more straightforward indie-pop of their former band. Despite their continued geographical divide (Aggs lives in London and Rodgers in Glasgow), and the former’s busy schedule as a member of both Shopping and Trash Kit, the pair have bashed out a wonderful collection imbued with tropical pulses.
The casual opening lines, “It’s ok it won’t matter/in a month in a year/if you want you can wander/I won’t go I’ll stay here,” play fast and loose with what is clearly a special songwriting partnership. The effortlessness with which the duo’s guitar and percussion dance around each other unfolds over each track to reveal an easy and complementary relationship in service of quality tunes. Rest’s tumbling guitar, rolling rhythms, and punctuating horns are a fine example of this natural yet vibrant sound. Only the lyrics hint at the labour behind the composition and execution: “You might say slow down take a break/but only I know what it really takes.”
The record has a dynamic energy that sweeps the listener along, and it’s helped in no small part by the warmth of the afrobeat cadences. That spirit often extends to the lyrics that manage to stay on the right side of syrupy sentimentality. Everyday’s declaration that, “I will always love you/I.. I.. I will be thinking of you” could be meant for a friend or a lover, and no matter which, the affection displayed is truly felt. It’s moments like these that the harmonies are at their most effective, and all the while it’s music that is impossible to hear and remain stationary.
The perpetual motion of the record is maintained not just musically, but also lyrically. So many of the tracks are preoccupied with keeping on the move and escaping the minutiae of everyday life. Wet Graffiti is one of the more downtempo numbers that sees the protagonist expressing regret over the incidental life they find themselves in: “There are some kids on the corner sniffing wet graffiti… we could pack up and leave this town/and put an end to endless hanging around.” Motivated by the realisation the pair excitedly call out, “Do you wanna, do you wanna, do you wanna run away.”
Similarly, Empty Body lays out the challenge “Give me a reason and I’ll stay/Going nowhere in a hurry,” which exemplifies the album’s central tension between an easy-going approach to the seemingly inconsequential and the rhythmical propulsion to move forward. It’s one of Sacred Paws’ strengths that they can oxygenate the more modest details in life, thus laying open their actual significance. In doing so they expose the importance of challenging those notions and keeping a momentum; as they lament on Voice, “Oh, you’re getting old it breaks my heart/you spends so long doing what you’re told, playing a part.”
Sacred Paws strike a match by igniting the themes and musicality of their record, and the result is hugely satisfying. There is something ballsy and defiant in the simplicity of the duo’s approach and directness. No doubt this masks the craft inherent in these tunes, but it’s full of messy, complicated joy.