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One of the reasons you started listening to music in the first place might have been in the hope of finding the kind of conviction and fierce rawness evident in Hurray for the Riff Raff’s, aka Alynda Segarra’s,“nature punk” manifesto about survival, LIFE ON EARTH. A visionary musician, Segarra (they/she)is an outsider in whose voice you might find echoes of your own.On hereighth full-lengthalbum, Segarra iscreatingmusic ofhonestyand portent.If there hadn’t been a pandemic, Segarramight have made a verydifferent sort of album fromLife on Earth, which became the record she’swaitedalifetimeto make.Like the rest of us, Segarrahad the disconcerting experience ofputtingthe brakes on life as theyknew itin March 2020. “I need to keep moving all the time,” says Segarra on a Zoom call from theirlight-filled studio in the shotgun house theycall home in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward.Segarra had been a human embodiment of Newton’s First Law of Motion even before theyranaway from theirhome in the Bronx at age seventeen, illegally hopping freight trains or hitchhiking across the country in the company of a band of street urchins, sleeping rough under dense underbrush at nightand hiding in trees for shelter. Coming from a fractured family, theyweren’tquite sure what theywerelooking for, but theyhad the feeling theywould knowit when theyfound it. And theydid when theypulled into New Orleans in 2007.There Segarra formed two bands: Dead Man’s Street Orchestra and Hurray for the Riff Raff, releasing an EP and seven albums with the latter.In 2015, Segarratemporarily decamped, first to Nashville, thenhometo New York. Her2016 Hurray for the Riff Raff album, The Navigator, was aquest to reclaim herPuerto Rican identity. Each song segued into the next in a tight narrative arc, uncovering important hints through the lens of her ancestors. “I feel like I’m always leaving clues in my song, hoping my listenerswill follow the breadcrumbs,” says Segarra with a short laugh. On Life on Earth, theyjust might. This time, she’schosen a topic that affects us all: our relationship to the natural world. “You could call Life on Earthsurvival music for the end times,” says Segarra. “But not justsurviving—learning how to thrive. The importance of adapting and learning from nature—those were the themes that kept coming to me.”Theycontinue,“Not being able to travel and get out whenever I felt nervous energy inside me, it really did a lot to bring back memories. It was a very reflective time, and it taught me a lot about trauma and memories being stored in the body,” says the musician. “I started running because that was the best way I could work out all of these weird feelings that were bubbling up and swirling around inside me.”While running, Segarrasaw a New Orleans that they had never noticed before, coming face-to-face with the unrulyplant life. “I felt the nature in New Orleans has this really rebellious energy, because it’s like nothing can get it down,” explains Segarra. “I was thinking of this loneliness, then all of a sudden I was looking at this plant life around me and feeling,‘Why did I feel so lonely when you’re here?’”Segarra also decided to deal with the trauma by seeing a therapist who specialized in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a kind of psychotherapy that helpspeople resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain.“So much of what we’re going through right now is about really claiming this moment that we’re in and admitting that this is the world that we’ve inherited,” theysay solemnly. “It’s not the world that we hoped to inherit or that we thought we were going to, but it’s the one we got, and we have to take the reins and decide what we’re going to do with it.This album is a lot about that.”“For me, every album is almost a film or a novel or a world I create that I want to live in. I want it to have themes and language, a cosmology or a lexicon, so the listener can live in it, because that’s what I loved about punk and the music that I was drawn to.It wasn’t justabout the music, it was about joining a crew,” says Segarra. As is theirhabit when making an album, Segarra was relentless in theirresearch, thumbing through books on flowers and plantsand watching documentaries, such asBlank Cityand Jupiter's Dance,about the music scene in Kinshasa. Another touchstone was Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s Keyboard Fantasies, released in 1986. “It is very nature-meets-early electronic music. Ithad this total rejuvenation during the pandemic.”Segarra also drewinspiration from reading the poetry of Joy Harjo, the United States Poet Laureate (the first Native American to hold that honor)and Ocean Vuong, the award-winning VietnameseAmericanpoet and author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Vuong’s voice in onthe album’s “nightqueen,” in an excerpt from aninterview hedid with On Being’s KristaTippett. Another source that sparked Segarrawas adrienne maree brown’s book Emergent Strategy. “It’s like a toolkit or a map for activists and people in organizing movements of how to learn from nature, how we can flock together, how we can learn to be adaptive and resist and grow and thrive, and trusteach other,” they explain. Segarra’s work with Freedom for Immigrantsalso impacted theirwriting. “I felt like the world was going to shit and I needed to be useful. ThenI found Freedom for Immigrants, an organization that createslittle contingency groups across the country of people who volunteer to visit people in detention who need help from the outside. This also changed the music theywanted to make.“It was time to get a little bit messier and scare myself,” Segarra says. After speaking to several producers who were wonderful but did not feel like the rightfit,Segarradecided to call Brad Cook, because shehad fallen in love with his work on Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud, Kevin Morby’s Sundowner,and Hand Habit’s Placeholder.“When I talked to Brad on the phone, I instantly felt, ‘I don’t have to be afraid around him.’” In the middle of the worst ofthe pandemic, shedecided to drive from New Orleans to Cook’s studio in Durham, North Carolina, tosee if herinstincts about working with himwere right.“When I met himI was just like, ‘This is my brother. This is who can help me.’ He opened a door to his studio and was like, ‘Go crazy. Play around with my toys.’ So that was really one of the biggest changes in my sound.“I don’t want to say all that stuffmade me change my sound,” assures Segarra. “I already wanted to. So much of my twenties was spent being very nostalgic and feeling I was born in the wrong time. I didn’t want to do that anymore,because finally there’s resistance happening, a young-people movement wanting to change the world. Popular music has also been opened up more toward women and people of color, queer people. I was more excited about being in the present moment,and I wanted to use the tools of now.Segarraalsopushed themselvesfurther than theyever had before. “There was a moment during a demo of ‘Pointed at the Sun’ that was just me and guitar. At the end I started crying during the ‘crucify myself’part. I’ve never fucking cried during a recording! I’m always way more in charge!Things are not in charge of me!” says Segarra, still a little incredulous. “When I was done and I apologized to Brad,I saw he had tears in his eyes too.”On hermost emotionally intense album yet, Segarra constructs an alternative reality—or, in theirwords after theirrecent temporary escapefrom New Orleans because ofHurricane Ida, “a soundtrack to evacuation.”Itkicks offwith the insistent call to action of “Wolves,” which recalls theirteenage odyssey from New York, a song about disaster, survival,and running for your life. “Pierced Arrows” is a claustrophobic tunnel vision of heartbreak that theyattempt to outrun. “You can’t outrun it. The past is always right there,” theysay. “Pointed at the Sun” is autobiographical and fiery, a high-soaring declaration song in whichlife force is activated, decisions are made, and autonomy is reclaimed.“Rhododendron” is about being faced with your own toxic behaviors and patterns and actively choosing a new path. “Jupiter’s Dance” was inspired bythedocumentary Segarra watched about musician Jupiter Bokondji, but it is also a prayer for the children in ICE facilities, trying to make their way to safety. “Life on Earth,” written before the pandemic, is as much a hopeful pleaas a funeral lament: Sadand fatalistic with its prescient lyrics about a man in a mask,itis likea hushed continuation of “Pa’lante,” the beautiful, elegiac piano ballad from The Navigator. “nightqueen” is dark, personal, and thrilling, like a cold finger traced along your spine, even more so when a wobbly tenor sax floats in from some disembodied underworld.