Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Past Is Still Alive

The latest from Alynda Segarra's shapeshifting outfit is calm and assured, but no less powerful for it

Album Review by Lewis Wade | 20 Feb 2024
  • Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Past Is Still Alive
Album title: The Past Is Still Alive
Artist: Hurray For The Riff Raff
Label: Nonesuch
Release date: 23 Feb

As the title suggests, Alynda Segarra's ninth album takes a ruminative look at their past with older, wiser eyes. Recorded in the wake of their father's death, there's a melancholic streak throughout the album, both lyrically and in the sparse, forlorn arrangements, but in the end hope still abounds.

There's less of the frenetic political energy that coursed through much of the project's last ten or so years, with the early country influences more pronounced than they've been in a decade (Buffalo; Hourglass especially). The personal is pushed front and centre, and the politics come with this, though generally in a more understated fashion, like in Hawkmoon's reminiscences of Segarra's first time meeting a trans woman or the touching love letter to safe queer spaces (following the Club Q shooting in 2022) in Colossus of Roads. Alibi showcases Segarra's slightly rough-hewn vocals these days, recalling a touch of Lucinda Williams, while being able to evoke powerful images through one-liners like: 'I see the track marks poking through your hoodie sleeve'.

The album's latter half leans into twangy ballad territory, including a lovely duet with Conor Oberst on The World Is Dangerous that underscores the sense of "hope in the face of adversity" that this album radiates. There's an ever-growing sense that Segarra is in a class above in terms of poignant lyricism and emotive performance – The Past Is Still Alive reaffirms this in spades.

Listen to: Alibi, Snakeplant (The Past Is Still Alive)