Hurray for the Riff Raff (aka Alynda Segarra, they/them) announces their new album, The Past Is Still Alive, due February 23, 2024 on Nonesuch Records. The record represents a new phase of beginning in Segarra’s lauded evolution as a storyteller. Created during a period filled with grief, when they found inspiration in radical poetry, railroad culture, outsider art, the work of writer Eileen Myles, and the history of activist groups like ACT UP and Gran Fury, discovering a stronger, singular style of writing that felt like a long-awaited revelation. In each song, lyrics serve as memory boxes for Segarra to process their trauma, identity and dreams for the future. Segarra uses their lyrics as a way to immortalize and say goodbye to those they have loved and lost, to illustrate the many shapes and patterns of time’s passing, and honor both the heartbroken and the hopeful parts of themselves. Though the record was made in North Carolina and produced by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Kevin Morby, Waxahatchee), the Bronx-born, New Orleans-based Segarra brings listeners to places far beyond, evoking vivid experiences of small shops and buffalo stampedes in Santa Fe, childhood road trips and Florida storms, struggles of addiction in the Lower East Side, days-long journeys to outrun the cops in Nebraska, and more.
The followup to their acclaimed Nonesuch debut, Life on Earth—which landed on Best of 2022 lists from the New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR Music, Mojo, Uncut, among others—The Past Is Still Alive sees Hurray for the Riff Raff reunite with Brad Cook, while further expanding their creative cast of collaborators. Anjimile, Conor Oberst and S.G. Goodman all join Alynda Segarra on vocals at various points throughout the LP, with a band of musicians including Cook, Libby Rodenbough, Matt Douglas, Meg Duffy of Hand Habits, Phil Cook, Yan Westerlund and Mike Mogis, who also mixed the album.
The “nature punk” of Life on Earth marked a departure for Hurray for the Riff Raff, as they contemplated surviving and thriving amidst a world in crisis The Past Is Still Alive brings the focus back inwards. The arrangements are raw, the melodies direct and indelible, and the lyrics personal, yet largely rooted in family and community. There are love songs to real characters, locations and mythic figures like Sky Red Hawk (“Buffalo”), the first trans woman Segarra ever met (“Hawkmoon”), queerness and sacred spaces (“Colossus of Roads”), leaving home behind (“Snake Plant”), short-lived romances and the wisdom gained through chaos (“Vetiver”). Elsewhere, in the self-portraits painted on “Alibi,” “Ogallala” and other album highlights, Segarra reflects on the land they have traveled, the hardships witnessed and bravery gained while running away from everything and everyone they knew at age seventeen, hopping freight trains and hitchhiking across the country with a band of street urchins.
In recent months, Hurray for the Riff Raff debuted a stage adaptation of their beloved 2017 album, The Navigator, based on their quest to reclaim their Puerto Rican identity. They also toured with Bright Eyes and First Aid Kit, performed for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and NPR Music’s 15th Anniversary Concert, played festivals like Pitchfork and more. Next spring, they will bring the music of The Past Is Still Alive on the road, for a headline tour across the US, UK and EU, that they have partnered with PLUS1 so that $1 per ticket goes to supporting This Must Be the Place and their work to distribute Naloxone - the lifesaving medicine that reverses an overdose – at events across the nation.