Hurray for the Riff Raff Has Arrived on 'The Past Is Still Alive'

BY Oliver CrookPublished Feb 21, 2024


Even before the stetson hit Beyoncé’s head, it was clear that country was the next big musical movement. As Kacey Musgraves continues to pull Grammys, Morgan Wallen keeps cancellation valiantly at bay and Luke Combs’s “Fast Car” cover dominates radio and Spotify playlists, 2024 is shaping up to be the year of the Wild West: Hell, even Lana Del Rey is rumoured to be getting in on the action with the allegedly upcoming Lasso.

Against this backdrop enters The Past Is Still Alive, the latest album from Alynda Segarra, the musical chameleon at the heart of Hurray for the Riff Raff. The jangly guitars are reminiscent of Tom Petty’s most outlaw moments, while Segarra’s lyrics feel like a dusty jaunt through untamed lands. A loose concept album, The Past Is Still Alive sees Segarra cosplay as a rowdy cowpoke, a creative reframing of their teen years spent hopping freight trains across America, their time spent busking on sidewalks and their deep roots in the New Orleans’ music scene. It feels like a uniting of everything that made Segarra — and by extension Hurray for the Riff Raff — so exciting over the past decade. In the process, they’ve created their best album yet.

Arriving in 2008 with acoustic strumming and washboard playing, Hurray for the Riff Raff began independently releasing songs that felt like a sonic trip to early frontier campfires. The approach changed with 2017s’ The Navigator, which saw them moving toward a fuller, more rock-indebted sound. And while 2022s’ LIFE ON EARTH may, at moments, have threatened a future of electro-pop songs, it ultimately continued to explore Segarra’s love of evolving and expanding on traditional American music.

Unlike 2013’s My Dearest Darkest Neighbor, which found Segarra covering their musical heroes, or Small Town Heroes’ love letters to Springsteen, The Past Is Still Alive feels one hundred percent Hurray for the Riff Raff. Segarra sounds completely in control and comfortable in their own skin, having accepted their role as the wild west storyteller, the acoustic-wielding bard who can spin a yarn about their own life as well as the make-believe.

There’s no end to the record’s standout moments; “Buffalo” feels designed to be listened to on a long desert ride, while album opener “Alibi” is an earworm you never want to leave your head. Even sad moments like “Snake Plant (The Past Is Still Alive)” feel tinged with hope.

The whole of The Past Is Still Alive feels bathed in sunlight, as if recorded at golden hour and mixed during a sunrise. It doesn’t just sound like wild west Americana — it feels that way, drawn from a life’s worth of experience and adoration of the genre. It’s the album that Segarra’s been building toward since they first picked up a guitar. 


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