Salim Nourallah
A Nuclear Winter
Happiness Records

A seminal figure in the Dallas-area music scene (both as a performer and a producer), Salim Nourallah has recorded with a staggering number of musicians and released a cornucopia of great music spanning nearly 30 years.

Yet it took a fortuitous meeting with Marty Willson-Piper (from the Church) for Nourallah to deliver his greatest achievement: the recently issued A Nuclear Winter.

Coming on the heels of his excellent EP, See You in Marfa (also a collaboration with Willson-Piper), A Nuclear Winter is as fine of a set of power pop since Badfinger was covering Paul McCartney. Obviously, Willson-Piper (who co-produced), being a great songwriter himself, is the catalyst for Nourallah’s best collection of songs. The difference between this new effort and the many others that preceded it is staggering.

Besides the ringing guitars (think the Byrds and REM) and the propulsive melodies (helped immensely by the greatness of drummer John Dufilho), it’s the production of the songs that makes all the difference. Instead of Nourallah’s vocals way up front as on previous recordings, the songs on A Nuclear Winter come off as more democratic, more like a band and less like a solo artist. With all of the other instruments on equal footing with the vocals, songs such as “Hazy Morning Glow,” “Loved by You” and “Under Attack” (and those are the fist three) are joyous, indie pop, played ragged but right.

Nourallah has never sounded as free or as in control as he does throughout this new effort. When he sings, “When you’re stuck in your head / And you can’t get out of bed,” in the lovely “You Are Beautiful,” the words are clearly autobiographical. Nourallah may have always been overthinking his own talent. He’s always been a clever songwriter with an aw-shucks kind of Paul Westerberg voice, but once the chiming guitars kick in on the likes of “The Sound of Suffering” and “(I Can’t Take) Another Heartbreak,” it’s as if a new side of Nourallah’s talent has been revealed.

A Nuclear Winter is that good, the culmination of years of writing, recording and performing. By far the best local release of the year, this may well be one of the best records all year by any artist, in or out of the state. Nourallah has made a pop rock record overflowing with brains and heart, a perfect summertime opus.