Album Review: Hurray for the Riff Raff, ‘The Past Is Still Alive’

On their new album, The Past Is Still Alive, Alynda Segarra, Hurray for the Riff Raff, creates a cinematic soundscape that captures the uncertainties, doubts, disappointments, and hopes that arise from living in tension with the past and the present.

Layers of shimmering guitar flow under Segarra’s emotionally expansive vocals on the gently shuffling folk  rocker “Alibi,” which opens the album. With their vocals, Segarra creates a space that transports their and their listeners through the littered debris of the past with the slim promise of looking forward to a more hopeful future.

On the slowly unfurling “Buffalo,” Segarra’s chanting vocals convey the urgent hopes of moving forward into a new love without repeating the mistakes of the past. The rollicking, echoing “Hawkmoon” delivers an ode and tribute to Miss Jonathan, the first trans woman they ever met. The piercing guitars on the instrumental bridge and unrelenting rhythms burn with their passion for honoring those who challenge norms as well as their deep love for a friend whose vulnerability and way of looking at life straight in the eyes touched them in an enduring way.

Incandescent vocals, floating along rivers of cascading guitars, light up “Colossus of Roads,” a declaration of unity and liberation. It’s also a poignant ballad of love and care as they sing they want to “wrap you in the bomb shelter of my feather bed.” “Snake Plant (The Past Is Still Alive)” rides along throbbing guitars and clashing chords as it evokes the discord of childhood as the trauma of the past offers lessons and hope for the future—“nothing can stop me now.”

Featuring a tender duet with Connor Oberst, “The World is Dangerous” is an airy waltz that lilts between the shards of a broken love and the hope of regaining it. On “Ogallala,” soaring pedal steel and ethereal choruses capture the emotional ambivalence of embracing the present and sailing into the future while acknowledging that the events of the past still live in our hearts and souls.

The Past Is Still Alive brims with Segarra’s heart-on-their-sleeve songwriting which evokes the emotional desolation of the human heart and sprawling spaces through which we travel in our efforts to inhabit the past and to move beyond it.


The Past Is Still Alive is available HERE


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