Sacred Paws

Strike a Match

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodgers formed Sacred Paws while they were playing together in the indie pop band Golden Grrrls, then kept going after that band split. Despite living in London and Glasgow, respectively, the thrill they felt playing together was enough to make the distance traveled to play and record worth every boring minute on a train or bus. That thrill comes through loud and clear on their first album, the Afro-pop-inspired Strike a Match. Aggs' jangling, spiraling guitar playing, her pulsing bass, and Rodgers' athletic drumming form the core of their sound, with the duo's vocals floating over the top in unison, trading lines or in rich harmony. They are clearly in deep debt to masters like Fela and off-kilter dance punks like Delta 5, and there's plenty of indie pop sweetness in their vocal interplay, but none of that matters unless the listener is the grumpiest kind of stickler. The bubbling rhythms, sharp-as-a-punch hooks, and ace guitar playing and drumming help push the record past nostalgia to a very happy place; the absolute joy in the singing and playing makes musical trainspotting feel like a crime; and the songs are bright enough to fill even the gloomiest bedsit with an overpowering warmth. The occasional fuzzy synths and shimmering horns add even more sunshine to their already blazing core, making songs like "Nothing" and "Everyday" sound like the most peacefully happy music on earth. Even when Sacred Paws dial it back some and bring in a little melancholy, like on "Wet Graffiti," they do it with gentle care and bouncy energy that fit perfectly with the uptempo, dancefloor-friendly tracks making up the bulk of the album. Aggs and Rodgers went through a lot of hard work to make Strike a Match, but the end result sounds effortless and feels as breezy and light as any pop music around. Strike a Match is a brilliant debut album with a solid emotional core that gives the instantly memorable songs gravity and keeps them from lifting off and floating away, instead anchoring them deep in listeners' hearts and minds.

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