Music Matters
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hurray For the Riff Raff, 'Rhododendron'

The spirit of The Velvet Underground has permeated this season, thanks to Todd Haynes' acclaimed documentary on the band. Hurray for the Riff Raff's Alynda Segarra, one of the most adventurous spirits to ever come out of the Americana music scene, is one step ahead of the curve, as usual. They recorded "Rhododendron," the first single from their upcoming Life on Earth — HFTRR's first album since 2017's masterwork The Navigator, due out Feb. 18 — before that movie made Lou Reed's snarl ubiquitous again.

Segarra modulates Velvets attitude for their own purposes: The song, they say, is about "finding rebellion in plant life," and their hypnotic, attitudinal vocal invokes the titular flower alongside night-blooming jasmine and deadly nightshade, old spirits to carry us beyond our current crises and into a cosmic place of healing. The video, directed by New Orleans artist Lucia Honey, was inspired by the Teenage Apocalypse trilogy of one of Haynes's peers in the revolutionary New Queer Cinema movement, Gregg Araki.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.