Hooray for the Riff Raff: Life on Earth Album Review
By listening to Segarra’s stories, the connections come to life, honoring another principle of Emerging strategy“Transform yourself to transform the world. As a result, Segarra dons life on earth with songs of self-esteem, where the electronics tremble like a new life about to be born. “Trying to avoid meeting my ex on Broadway,” they sing on the brooding, high-rise “Pierced Arrows,” knowing it takes work not to look back. On the solitary “Nightqueen,” they sing of the betrayal of their own hearts in favor of an “addiction to freedom,” which proves futile. When they insist, to the sly rhythm of “Jupiter’s Dance”, that they “can’t start a fire without my heart” – Springsteen’s restless mind never too far – it seems to say: access to one’s own emotions is the ultimate spark.
life on earthThe first lead finds wolves appearing at the front door of a dangerous house. “You gotta run, baby / You know how to run,” Segarra sings, a line inspired by their own youth that could also serve as an epigraph to their ongoing narrative of the immigrant experience in America, particularly the dehumanization at the hands of the ECI. On the devastating title track, Segarra portrays a “girl in a cage with the moon in her eyes”, who sings “Life on Earth is long”, i.e. it’s hard; the benevolent universe of this ballad makes it almost bearable. The lightly hit “Precious Cargo” is a stark reminder that it was none other than Woody Guthrie who launched Segarra on his artistic train path a decade and a half ago. On a cool trip-hop rhythm, the song tells the story of a man swimming across a river with his children, of a border crossed, of a family torn apart; to shiver on the cold prison floor with a foil blanket and call on Allah. In 2019, Segarra personally visited ICE facilities in Louisiana with Freedom for Immigrants and worked to free two men from these inhumane prisons. At the end of the song, as Segarra calls out the names of southern towns with ICE centers, their words give way to those of one of the detained men: “Immigrants are suffering,” he says. “This song is my life.” “Precious Cargo” makes us all witnesses.
“I ask you, as Bell Hooks says, to fall in love with justice,” Segarra wrote in a searing open letter to the folk community in 2015. life on earth exudes a prayer-like love for humanity, as Segarra’s depiction of resilience extends to memories sparked by “a terrible week of news” on the penultimate “Saga.” “I was a child, I was alone”, they sing. “He pushed me on the concrete / Oh, I can’t speak.” Trauma, once housed, works to silence us from within, the song suggests; breaking free is a triumph, emboldening every note of “Saga”. This is especially true of his final moments, where Segarra chants, heartbreakingly, “No one believed me.” “I’m just gonna get through this week,” they sing, “And I’ll make it out alive.” Segarra follows in the lineage of Fiona Apple, Sharon Van Etten and other modern songwriters who have dealt with abusive relationships in bold songs. The brassy conviction and even biting humor of “Saga”, and life on earthis proof of a recovery.