Hurray For The Riff Raff leave aside their Americana and Folk-blues banjo sounds to create their new genre-blending full-length ‘The Navigator’. It is a concept album about Navita, the alter ego of Alynda Lee Segarra – voice and heart of the band – who wanders in the city searching for herself and fighting for the future of those who have being marginalised in a crumbling world. It is a fierce and highly political-charged album, wrapped up as a sci-fi musical conceived in Segarra’s head that is surprisingly easy to listen despite its deep and dense topics.
After Trump’s election, Alynda felt she was “more determined to create work that says this simple fact: America is not white”. In ‘The Navigator’ the New York-born singer explores the condition of being stranded between two cultures and not fully fitting in any of them, her experiences and worries as a queer Latina and a fearlessly exposes the situation of those out of specific demographics. It is an ode to her roots filled with social activism.
“They said ‘we’ll build a wall to keep them out’”
‘Rican Beach’ is a bold critique on cultural appropriation, gentrification and the infamous Trump wall, sang over Latin sounds that evolve with a groovy guitar. “First they stole our language, then they stole our names, then they stole the things that brought us fame, then they stole our neighbours and they stole our street, and they left us to die on Rican Beach”. ‘The Navigator’, the first track that Segarra wrote for the album and the one which triggered her alter ego, follows the ‘Rican Beach’ latin sound in a more low-tempo pace while raising her concerns about displacement on her neighbourhood: “Oh where will all my people go? The navigator wants to know”.
‘Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl’ is an impeccable country ballad which shares that moving and melancholic feeling with ‘Halfway There’ and ‘Fourteen Floors’, although they deal with different topics. Together with ‘Living In The City’, which brings to my mind the 70s rock sound developed in New York – I will not mention The Velvet Underground -, the folk-bluesy ‘Life to Save’ and the brilliant indie rock-like ‘Hungry Ghost’ bring to light the ability of Segarra to weave between genres and collate them in an album that works and flows with no visible edges.
“When I woke up it was all gone,
they took it when I was asleep”
Probably, the gem of ‘The Navigator’ is ‘Pa’lante’ (onwards in Spanish), where Segarra’s personal reflection and political anger blend reaches its peak. It is an empowering statement for the America’s marginalised and neutralised, a protest song in the shape of a piano anthemic tune that borrows from the Beatles and raised comparisons to PJ Harvey and Patti Smith for its spirit and her strength and intensity.
“To all who had to hide I say pa’lante
To all who lost their pride I say pa’lante
To all who had to survive I say pa’lante
To my brothers and to my sisters I say pa’lante”
It has been an unexpected shift for the New Orelans-based band, a risk and ambitious move that might place ‘The Navigator’ among the best albums of the year.
ATO Records | 2017
Tracklist & Stream