Alynda Segarra Is Stepping Out.
Hurray for the Riff Raff find their soul in lead artist and vocalist, Alynda Segarra. The Puerto Rican songstress serves up a blend of Latin, country and alternative that’s musically interesting and aesthetically gripping. She speaks of the death of poets by a malicious “silence disease” in the extremely timely poetic diatribe, “Rican Beach,” which rails against cultural appropriation and colonization, and makes the listener quite aware that Segarra has no intention of succumbing to this mysterious ailment.
The album opens with an “Entrance,” which reminds one of a spiritual experience, and closes with a “Finale,” which trails off from an energetic break of Latin percussion, suggesting perhaps that the tracks in between may constitute a concept album. While the continuity in these tracks does not suggest this intention, there are thematic threads of Segarra’s culture and urban experience lyrically infused into an album with strong country influences. A female character in “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” is “allegedly free.” The character of The Navigator, for whom the album and a specific track is named, wonders, “where will all my people go?” Imagery of a fourteenth-floor residence in a city skyscraper recurs in multiple songs throughout the album. “Pa’lante,” an abbreviated form of a common Spanish phrase which loosely means, “go forward,” speaks of a sort of identity crisis in the face of antagonistic politics and urban gentrification, “I just wanna…be something, ” Segarra sings in an altered refrain, echoing the sentiments of the youths, immigrants, and people who struggle. Her alternative vocal sound that suggests Brandi Carlile or Florence Welch, sans some of the vocal grit, is augmented with a pull-no-punches narrative and a powerful message of empowerment in Latina identity.
Segarra’s lyrics and use of found sounds, dialogue and indigenous percussion make this hybrid album quite overtly political, but one has to listen long enough for her message to be revealed. This is certainly not hard to do — Segarra is stepping up and stepping out, and her voice is not one to be ignored.