Staff Pick: Hurray for the Riff Raff refuses to fold on new album ‘Life on Earth’

Alynda Segarra leads the band into Columbus for a concert at Skully’s on Sunday, April 10

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Hurray for the Riff Raff

Life on Earth, the new album from Hurray for the Riff Raff, arrives packed with escapist themes that wouldn’t sound out of place emanating from Frances McDormand’s character in “Nomadland.” “So tired of running in a pack,” Alynda Segarra sings on the stripped-down piano ballad “Nightqueen.” “I left my home I can’t turn back.”

Elsewhere, the musician, who leads Hurray for the Riff Raff into Columbus for a concert at Skully’s on Sunday, April 10, embraces their inner Earth warrior (see “Rhododendron,” co-written with Jim James of My Morning Jacket, which Segurra has described as being about “finding rebellion in plant life”), embodies a border crosser on the harrowing “Precious Cargo” and wrestles with the lingering effects of trauma. “I’ll just make it through this week, and I'll get out alive,” Segarra sings atop comparatively chipper instrumentation on “Saga,” a buoyant tune that projects resilience, coming on like a spiritual relative of the Mountain Goats’ “This Year.”

In a 2015 Alive interview, Segarra traced their strong sense of empathy in part to being raised by a father who was a veteran of the Vietnam War. “That put a very human perspective on everything,” Segarra said. “Being around someone you love so much and watching them heal after going to war as a young man, it reminds you that no matter who somebody is they might have this past and this struggle you don’t know about.”

All the more reason to continue fighting amid the various crises that have threatened to overwhelm in recent years, as Segarra does throughout Life on Earth, an album that never shies from the reality that life can be impossibly hard while also refusing to give so much as an inch.