[21 January 2008]
What can be gleaned about a person based on the hits that come from typing their name into a search engine? Enter Dallas-based singer/songwriter Salim Nourallah and you’re likely to find a few fitting characterizations. According to the blurb describing his official website, Nourallah is labeled a “reluctant solo act” as well as the “anti-Justin Timberlake.”
While his feelings on the matter are impossible to evaluate, Nourallah’s third studio project as a solo act (the songwriter previously recorded with the Happiness Factor, and withbrother Faris as Nourallah Brothers) does not reveal any detectable reluctance about his current position; Snowing in My Heart is an arrangement of twelve confident and catchy tracks. The album absolutely reinforces the notion that there is disparity between the work of Nourallah and a certain man-child who desires to bring the sexy back. Nourallah’s music is of the meditative, literate pop-rock variety, calling artists like Wilco, Elvis Costello, and the Beatles to mind.
Nourallah’s mature pop vibe is best defined and represented by the album’s cuts that are both highly melodic and well put together. Writing each song and being part of a trio that recorded and mixed the album, Nourallah’s personal stamp is all over the project, a work that speaks to his musical gifts and definite pop sensibilities. Nourallah’s work depicts him as an artist with a deep appreciation for the process of writing and recording an album, a musician who puts a great deal of thought into each word choice and instrumental part.
The album opens in a fitting manner. First track “Hang On” is a mid-tempo, laid-back rock tune showcasing Nourallah’s endearingly everyman vocals and containing a number of melodic guitar riffs encased in the soft sounds of a mellotron and the steadiness of Nourallah’s rhythm section. These same elements of tempo, style, and melody come into play time and again, key components of the blueprint for the record’s other successes.
Such winning moments include the forward-moving “The Wicked Are Winning” with bouncy rhythms that provide accent to Nourallah’s melody; the sublime “Days Disappear”; and the straight-ahead, straight-talking “It’s Okay to Be Sad.” The more angular rocker “Erased” and sweet melancholy of “I Miss You (So Come Back)” are other examples of Nourallah’s ability to craft an excellent pop/rock track. The latter of the two strengthens the validity of those who have compared Nourallah vocally to Wilco mastermind Jeff Tweedy; the Beatle-esque track wouldn’t have seemed out of place on that band’s Being There or Summerteeth (For one example of the Tweedy link, see the PopMatters review of previous Nourallah offering, Beautiful Noise).
Lyrically, Nourallah is simple and sincere, using clear and universally applicable imagery to communicate his messages. Nourallah’s words tend to frame everyday situations and feelings in ways both familiar and fresh. What is perhaps the best lyric on the album (found on “It’s Lonely When You’re All Alone”) gives depth and perspective on the subject of assuming and embracing adulthood. Anyone tackling the roles brought on by marriage, parenthood, or simply growing into your own skin can relate to lines like “If there were any justice in this world, I’d be a saint / Put on the highest pedestal not covered in house paint / Oh, it’s OK / I did it to myself so they say / Yeah, I’ll be fine just sitting by myself, doing time / I’m never really all alone, oh, all alone, oh, I’m all alone”.
For all his lyrical ease, Nourallah does over rely just a little on the imagery established in the album’s title; three tracks use some mention of snow in either the heart or head. While this is an effective and perhaps somewhat clever way to convey melancholy or an emotional winter, it seems a bit more use than necessary.
This aside, there aren’t really any glaring negatives on Snowing in My Heart though it should be mentioned that, as a whole, the album is more solid than spectacular. The laid-back vibe Nourallah establishes early helps him carve out his own persona but also prevents the album from containing any true musical fireworks. However, Nourallah has presented numerous songs here worthy of numerous listens and, if nothing else, has reminded us that the contemporary pop music world isn’t solely made up of wannabe Justin Timberlakes.