Released: 18th February 2022
Having grown up in the Bronx, where they discovered doo-wop, Motown and later hardcore punk, Alynda Segarra ran away from home at seventeen, hopping trains and hitchhiking across the United States. After eventually settling in New Orleans, they formed Hurray for the Riff Raff, her presence the only constant with a shifting lineup exploring the spectrum of Americana. Last time we heard from the Riff Raff on 2017’s ‘The Navigator’, Alynda explored her Puerto Rican roots on a concept album based around soulful rock songs.
A celebration of survival, ‘LIFE ON EARTH’, channels nature’s resilience in the face of human barbarism, embracing ‘radical joy’ as a remedy to the relentless negativity of life lived through news feeds. Natural cycles permeate the songs, simple musical phrases looped hypnotically and choruses often consisting of a few lines repeated as a mantra. Without any sudden shifts in dynamics or tempo, the effect is of imprinting the song’s core upon the listener and by the end of each track you’ll feel like you’ve known it all your life. Electric instrumentation is kept to a minimum, with pianos, brass and the thrum of Alynda’s acoustic providing the backbone.
Mostly eschewing the artist-activist label which ‘The Navigator’ inadvertently put upon them, Alynda makes room for the powerful ‘Precious Cargo’, a spoken word piece over a rap beat detailing the violence inherent in immigration control from the perspective of someone she met while volunteering. “Immigrants are suffering. This song is my life,” the piece concludes.
The Riff Raff’s songwriting is a product of her formative years skipping from town to town, and the influences paint a tapestry of the American songbook. Luckily it never comes off as derivative, with Alynda’s unique and arresting vocal style proving to be The Riff Raff’s most potent weapon. After five years away, Hurray for the Riff Raff kick off 2022 with an essential album.