Hurray for the Riff Raff — „Life on Earth“ (Feb. 18, 2022)

USA FLAG                                             Hurray for the Riff Raff — „Life on Earth“ (Feb. 18, 2022)
„Life on Earth“ je výstupem od Alyndy Segarra (they/she), sídlící v New Orleans. Její jedenáct nových „přírodně punkových“ skladeb na téma přežití je hudbou pro svět v pohybu — písně o prosperování, nejen o přežívání, zatímco se dějí katastrofy. Pro své osmé dlouhohrající album čerpala Segarra inspiraci od The Clash, Beverly Glenn~Copeland, Bad Bunny a autorky Emergent Strategy, Adrienne Maree Brown. Album Life on Earth, natočené během pandemie, produkoval Brad Cook (Waxahatchee, Bon Iver, Kevin Morby).
„Life on Earth“ již získalo kritickou chválu a objevilo se na nejočekávanějších seznamech alb pro rok 2022, mimo jiné: NPR, Pitchfork, The Guardian, Stereogum, The Observer, Vulture, Wall Street Journal, Paste, Evening Standard a Irish Times. The Guardian říká: „Nejpůsobivější na „Life on Earth“ je způsob, jakým Segarra metabolizuje ponuré a znepokojivé předměty do písní, ve kterých překypuje naděje, krása a jásot,“ zatímco Observer říká: „Hurray for the Riff Raff  slibuje manuál pro Life on Earth, ‘přírodní punkové’ album pro těžké časy,“ a Ann Powers z NPR klonuje: „Pokud potřebujete nějakou hudbu, která vás v této podivné zimě posune vpřed, myslím, že Life on Earth to udělá za vás.“ 
Mojo ve své čtyřhvězdičkové recenzi nazývá album „pozoruhodně jemnou, něžnou nahrávkou, plnou jemné empatie, linek, které vyznívají pravdou sdíleného zážitku. Hurray for The Riff Raff možná nedokáže zachránit svět, ale Life on Earth je soucitnou a humánní věcí v době, kdy to může být chápáno jako dar.“
♠   „Řekla jsem si: ‚Mohu se podívat na ty lidi, kteří ve mně vyvolávají existenční krizi, nebo se můžu podívat na obzor.‘ V dálce jsem viděla tu řadu stromů. Všimla jsem si, jak se houpou ve vánku, jak na ně dopadá světlo a začala jsem těmto stromům hrát tyto písně. Jen mě to napadlo — proč jsem si nikdy nemyslela, že stromy si také zaslouží písně?“
Location: New Orleans~via~New York, NY
Album release: Feb. 18, 2022
Record Label: Nonesuch 
Duration:     40:12
01. WOLVES   3:37
04. RHODODENDRON   3:34 
05. JUPITER’S DANCE   2:35 
06. LIFE ON EARTH  5:47
07. nightqueen   3:39
10. SAGA   4:35
11. KiN   0:50

Reinvention happens. Artists evolve over time, all the time: Against Me!, for instance, or Taylor Swift, or Joni Mitchell. Life on Earth, the seventh album by New Orleans~via~New York folk~blues~punk project Hurray for the Riff Raff, qualifies as reinvention on the same level, with a caveat: singer~songwriter and frontperson Alynda Segarra has taken such leaps over the last decade and a half as a human being, as well as a musician, that their efforts on Life on Earth express reinvention less than they do rebirth. It’s rare for a record so deep in a band’s discography to function as a fresh start after establishing a style, not to mention a personality, over so many years.
Segarra pulls off that trick in part because Hurray for the Riff Raff’s last album, The Navigator did heavy lifting setting the stage for change. On The Navigator, Segarra wrestled with their Puerto Rican heritage in transition after seamless transition from track to track, stringing together a tight, cohesive story about their background and the weight it lays on their shoulders; through each song, they considered Puerto Rico and their Puerto Rican~ness, and the responsibility they have to both as a child of the country and as a musician. That’s a big damn burden for one person to carry, but Segarra carried it with their own strength and their band’s combined strength, too~Casey McAllister, Dan Cutler, Sam Doores and Yosi Perlstein. Now, they carry that burden through to Life on Earth.
Seventh acts aren’t often this urgent or original. We’ll never know because we don’t live in an alternate timeline where Life on Earth is Hurray for the Riff Raff’s debut, but if you hear it without knowing the author, you might guess it’s the product of a new act instead of veteran talent. Obviously, you’d be wrong, but therein lies the album’s raw power as an act of awakening: With Segarra’s newfound sense of self and a new outlook on life and the world comes a new sound, and a new mission, both related to the old but attuned to the moment. Music is slightly better positioned to pick its time than, say, film and TV; had COVID never happened, Segarra might have made a different record than Life on Earth. But COVID is still happening, and so Life on Earth reads as a reaction to its effects on American life.
If The Navigator saw Segarra reconcile their Puerto Rican ancestry, then Life on Earth feels like their attempt to reconcile their Earthling status. Currently, living on this planet sucks. At any given moment, one part of the world could be on fire while another is underwater. Think of Life on Earth as a guide for staying alive and going to ground even when it seems like there’s no ground to go to: From the very first song, “Wolves,” Segarra appears to be giving their listeners tools for evading danger and death. Segarra knows what they’re talking about~they left home at 17 and have lived all over the U.S.~and through their knowledge they tap into common disasters, from wildfires and tornadoes to hurricanes and blizzards, that have left Americans displaced or dead. “It’s not safe at home anymore,” Segarra sings over slow drum and bass beats and buzzing synth on the chorus. They don’t point to where “safe” actually is (“some distant shore,” goes one verse), but the warning suffices.
There’s an electronic slickness to “Wolves” that sounds unfamiliar to Hurray for the Riff Raff’s aesthetic, but “unfamiliar” works. It’s otherworldly. Besides, “familiar” remains a fixture on the record in tracks like “Rhododendron,” a piece of fast~paced folk~punk that stitches the environmental motif with thoughts on man’s brutality toward man. Segarra rattles off plant names like a botanist~foxglove, nightshade, jasmin, chamico, morning glory~and contrasts them with protest imagery (“police barricade”) alongside barbarism (“Addicted to the / High of violence”). Being human means appreciating the harmony in nature while fighting against our most savage natural instincts. “Rhododendron”’s genre suits what Segarra’s communicating in their lyrics.
Life on Earth visits these concepts, back and forth, over all of its 11 tracks, but Segarra captures all of them under one umbrella in the album’s namesake centerpiece, where they play a gorgeous, somber piano tune in a place of warmth and gloom, reflecting on the state of Earth and all its inhabitants. “Life on Earth” feels like a cousin to The Navigator’s spotlight song, “Pa’lante,” a plea to remember where one comes from and a call to action all at once; the difference is that “Life on Earth” touches on beauty (“Monarchs in flight / The dawn’s early light”) and horror (“The girl in a cage with / The moon in her eye”) with melancholy that, depending on your mood, may read either as hopeful or nihilistic.
David Fincher’s Seven is the last place anyone’s mind will go when experiencing Life on Earth, but Morgan Freeman’s last line of dialogue in that film unexpectedly relates to Segarra’s work nonetheless. “‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for,’” he sighs, quoting Ernest Hemingway. “I agree with the second part.” Segarra likely agrees with both parts, but they’re so tuned into surviving ugliness that everything that makes the world such a fine place feels like auxiliary detail. What matters are the travails we endure to appreciate goodness. Life on Earth is a journey through the former toward the latter, and a dazzling shift from Hurray for the Riff Raff’s roots to their present.
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