On her debut album Live, Raff, Love, New York City-bred singer/songwriter Raffaella explores the liminal space between adolescence and adulthood, and all the wildly formative experiences within it. Building on the blunt and poetic lyricism first glimpsed on her 2017 breakthrough single “Sororicide”—a #1 hit on Spotify’s Viral 50 US—the Minneapolis-based artist narrates every drama with a specificity so intense you immediately absorb each sensory detail (the cotton candy and cigarette smoke, drunken kisses and stoned malaise). The result is a body of work establishing Raffaella as one of pop’s sharpest observers of human behavior, transforming her self-reflection into so much revelatory insight on the sublime chaos in coming-of-age.
Produced by Jake Luppen of Hippo Campus, Live, Raff, Love embodies a kaleidoscopic sound informed by everything from hyperpop and anti-folk to skate-punk and Sondheim showtunes. In its elegant collision of disparate elements (pounding drums and programmed beats, snarling guitar riffs and shimmery textures), the album endlessly echoes the spirit of purposeful contradiction that imbues all her artistry. To that end, Live, Raff, Love draws much of its tension from Raffaella’s artful juxtaposition of sticky-sweet melodies and penetrating lyrics—a dynamic in full effect on the album-opening “come to nyc, pls,” a gorgeously hazy, piano-laced piece she encapsulates as a “mating call” to Luppen (now her partner). Co-written with singer/songwriter Charlie Hickey and Marshall Vore (a songwriter/musician known for his work with Phoebe Bridgers and Christian Lee Hutson), “Buick” brings Raffaella’s ultravivid storytelling to the tale of a far less charmed romance, giving rise to an impossibly upbeat pop track that’s euphoric and summery but spiked with a sardonic edge. And on “Blonde,” Raffaella muses on the possibilities and precarities of self-presentation, mining inspiration from a New Yorker piece on Joyce Carol Oates’s Blonde (a fictional account of Marilyn Monroe’s inner life) and delivering a fantastically unhinged meditation on self-mythology.
In a nod to her acting background, Raffaella structured Live, Raff, Love in the manner of a play, with its latter half taking on a profoundly heavier tone. All throughout the album, she instills her songs with an unfettered emotionality she partly attributes to the intimacy of the recording sessions (a deliberately unhurried process that saw her collaborating with Luppen and mutual friends like Hippo Campus’ Nathan Stocker and drummer Joey Hayes). An indelibly expressive vocalist, she first found her voice by singing along with the likes of Billie Holiday and started writing songs in high school, tapping into longtime inspirations like Regina Spektor. After releasing “Sororicide” her senior year at Barnard College at Columbia University (where she studied French Literature and philosophy), Raffaella landed her deal with Mom + Pop Music and soon put out her 2019 debut EP Ballerina, in addition to opening for the likes of Sigrid, Alice Merton, and indie-rock icon Liz Phair (one of her all-time musical idols).
With her more recent live experience including support slots for The Greeting Committee and Maude Latour, Raffaella has brought a newfound confidence to her onstage performance. “I’m learning how to dance more and have fun with the shows, but the most important thing to me is connecting with the audience and telling a story,” she says. And with the release of Live, Raff, Love, she hopes that listeners might gain a deeper connection to their own interior world. “To me music is like a magic trick, where you can end up feeling things you didn’t know you felt, or crystallize very amorphous feelings, or bring up feelings that were maybe forgotten,” she says. “A big part of why I write is to remember my own life, to remember the small moments and see the growth that comes from them. I hope these songs help people to get a better understanding of all the different chapters we go through, and how each one is so important to who we become.”
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