Alynda Segarra, creative and frontperson extraordinaire of Hurray for the Riff Raff, has announced a brand new album for the Americana/indie folk-rock group that they have spearheaded for now more than 15 years. The Past Is Still Alive (out February 23, 2024 on Nonesuch Records) was heralded last week with a new music video – watch above. “Alibi” showcases a tender, more subdued, and more country-fied sound following the anger and passion of 2022’s LIFE ON EARTH. Segarra has always made their home directly in American roots music, even while they and their ensemble have played most often in its fringes and margins. The Past Is Still Alive feels a bit like a return to the bread-and-butter genre aesthetics that first launched HFTRR into the upper, superlative reaches of indie Americana.
The Past Is Still Alive also showcases Segarra’s incredible talent for processing and displaying all of the beautiful and hideous facets of grief and loss – this time, losses and griefs much more personal than those highlighted on recent albums and songs.
“The Past Is Still Alive is an album grappling with time, memory, love and loss, recorded in Durham, NC a month after losing my father,” Segarra explains via press release. “‘Alibi’ is a plea, a last ditch effort to get through to someone you already know you’re gonna lose. It’s a song to myself, to my father, almost fooling myself because I know what’s done is done. But it feels good to beg. A reckoning with time and memory. The song is exhausted with loving someone so much it hurts. Addiction separates us. With memories of the Lower East Side in the early 2000s of my childhood, mixed with imagery of the endless West that calls to artists and wanderers.”
Even with subject matter as heart-stopping and human as this, it’s difficult to anticipate this new album with anything other than excitement. Segarra is a master of transparent vulnerability, painting and evoking with their queerness, their identity, their cultural background in ways that complicate internalized narratives and stereotypes – while also contextualizing all of these intellectual explorations in a down-to-earth, everyday fashion. That The Past Is Still Alive will engage this sort of exploration within country, Americana, and string band sounds – however experimental or mainstream or “normative” or genre-blending – adds up perfectly.
Photo Credit: Tommy Kha