It was back in July 2017 that I gave the most fleeting of mentions to Sacred Paws, congratulating the duo on their debut recording, Strike A Match, winning the Scottish Album of the Year award. I’m annoyed with myself that I failed to follow up with a feature on what is a really enjoyable and unusual listen, certainly in comparison to the sounds most closely associated with Glasgow. Hopefully this appreciation of the sophomore offering goes some way to rectifying things.
Sacred Paws is made up of Rachel Aggs (vocals, guitar) and Eilidh Rodgers (vocals, drums) who have known each other for years through various bands they have been part of. It was back in 2015 that they decided to work together, although things were complicated a bit by the fact that Rachel was living in London and Eilidh was in Glasgow. The development of technology and home recording has perhaps made such geographical issues less than a problem than they were a few decades ago but it still meant that things weren’t rushed.
The duo were signed to Rock Action, the label owned by Mogwai, and the first fruits of their labour was the Six Songs EP , released to a fair bit of buzz round these parts thanks to an energetic blend of spiky guitars, funky drumming/percussion lines and vocals that were chanted as often as they were sung which really made for a breath of fresh air. Throw in the fact that the girls were clearly enjoying themselves on stage and you had a decent recipe for success.
The debut album took over where the EP had ended, delivered with just a bit more polish and confidence. It gave a few nods to the 80s female-led bands such as The Slits and The Raincoats while the increased use of upbeat African-style drumming provided a real energy that bordered on the infectious. It made for a hugely entertaining listen and was a deserving winner of SAY 2017, albeit the vast majority of people in the country had never heard of them nor, with next to radio play, had heard any of the songs.
Sacred Paws had a rather quiet 18 months on the back of winning the award, with just a handful of live appearances and no new material. Rock Action didn’t try hard to cash in on the increased profile with an re-release of earlier material and instead encouraged the duo to go about things in the way they themselves most wanted. Rachel re-located to Glasgow which meant they could spend more time writing and arranging the new material but it did take until the end of May 2019 for the follow-up Run Around The Sun to hit the shops.
Having said that, it had been preceded by a couple of digital singles and a BBC Radio 6 session with Marc Riley, who in effect is becoming a part-replacement for John Peel in terms of providing a platform for bands to come into a studio to band out three or four songs in one go to be broadcast to the nation. I was delighted with the singles which indicated that the duo weren’t tampering with what had made them so interesting to begin with. The album proved to be a huge delight, again full of bright, sunny and infectiously happy songs that were very welcom in a year when so many events and happenings seemed to cast a long shadow.
It’s an album that I’ve found myself prone to putting on while I’m embarking on a road or rail journey, and outside the skies are dark and brooding while the rain batters off the windows – it is the perfect antidote to such situations and as I sit back and close my eyes, I’m transported thousands of miles south to where the sun is beating down and the mood and vibes are carefree. And when the last of its ten songs comes to an end after a little more than 32 minutes, I’ll hit the repeat button.