Salim Nourallah

Hit Parade

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Salim Nourallah has been quietly making some of the best and most engaging music on the pop underground for over a decade, and while his chores as a producer and engineer have been occupying much of his time since the release of his album Constellation in 2009, he managed to duck into Austin's Treefort Studios for a few days with some talented friends and walked out with one of his best records to date. Nourallah has always had a gift for a great pop melody, but he's clearly stepped up his game as a songwriter on Hit Parade; the tunes are as lovely as ever, but he digs in deeper as a lyricist on this material, and the Parisian romantic reverie of "38 Rue de Sevigne," the childhood exploits of "Unstoppable," the joys and sorrows of "Goddamn Life," and the teenage anxieties of "Channel 5" hit a little harder and tell richer tales than Nourallah has offered us in the past, and the lively angst of "Never Felt Better" and the sharply focused rage of "Everybody Knows" may feel less nuanced but they still hit their targets dead on. Nourallah also has a top-notch band backing him up on Hit Parade, featuring Joe Reyes of Buttercup on guitar, Richard Martin of Shibboleth on keyboards, Jason Garner of the Polyphonic Spree on bass, and John Dufilho of the Apples in Stereo on drums; the players are individually solid, and together this is the tightest, most versatile, and most simpatico group Nourallah has worked with to date. And even though he has a fine résumé as a producer, bringing in Jim Vollentine to handle the sessions was a wise choice, as he gives the album a sound that's crisp but full-bodied and makes the most of the dust this band can kick up. Salim Nourallah is still finding wrinkles in his music, and on Hit Parade he delivers a dozen songs that show he has plenty to say and fine ways to tell his tales; this is a superb album from a master of contemporary pop, and if you like a good melodic song well performed, you're going to love Hit Parade.

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