Faris Nourallah – I Love Faris

Faris Nourallah
I Love Faris

Firmly entrenched in the canon of cult films, it might be somewhat surprising for most to realize that the classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was actually a bit of a commercial dud when it was originally released in 1986, long before it became the feature of day-long marathons and worked itself into the daydreams of bored kids everywhere. With the VCR boom approaching just over the horizon, however, it was only a matter of time before the movie would be discovered, and word of mouth created a generation of teenagers who enjoyed watching a smart-alecky kid skate through life with the Midas touch. And while he spells his name a bit differently, Faris Nourallah and his classicist approach to pop songwriting places him clearly out of step with most of those releasing albums in the contemporary indie rock underground, but also makes him a likely candidate to be discovered some day by a wider audience, as word of mouth spreads the truth of his considerable melodic gifts. I Love Faris offers convincing evidence that Nourallah might be blessed with such a fate.
Utilizing his light, slightly nasal croon to narrate songs of love and nostalgia, Nourallah immediately brings to mind the Kinks’ Ray Davies, both for his wistful melodies and his cleverly unpretentious persona. Everything about Nourallah is pure pop bliss, from the pastel keyboards and welcomingly lush arrangement of the opening “Brogadiccio” to the goofy steel drums and farting electronic bass line of the farcically quirky “I Like to Go to Parties,” that closes the disc. Accenting his songs with falsetto and impossibly engaging melodies that rise and fall and weave themselves around his plaintively simple verse, he’s equally conversant in piano tunes as the acoustic balladry and understated electro-pop. As such, there is a constant back and forth between the more straightforwardly serene textures of acoustic guitar and piano and the undercurrent of processed beats and stereotypically synthy-sounding keyboards, impressively adding up to create an notable mix of textures that never sounds nearly as unfocused as it could. In fact, the consistency of the record end up being its most notable feature, as he hits nary a stray note over the course of 14 tracks.
His Wall of Sound by-way-of ProTools ideology works again and again, creating an aesthetic not entirely different than what Stephin Merrit’s more electronic-leaning work (minus the biting lyricism, of course), with his inexhaustible resource of melodies inform the prancing harpsichord chamber pop of “A Famous Life” and the icy piano balladry of “The Road.” Still, under-girding the complex pop sensibilities of the arrangements and melodies is a truly innocent songwriting persona. Whether singing a paean to the man in the moon in the song of the same name or offering sentiments of fidelity and faithfulness in the nearly awkward “Let’s Get Married,” Nourallah fits snugly inside the guise of a vulnerable and sensitive balladeer.
Overall, Nourallah’s careful songcraft and effective theatricality act as the perfect foil for some of the strongest melodies and compellingly elaborate song structures to emerge among pop-minded songwriters in recent years. Without a doubt, he has yet to rise above being a star pupil in the school of the masters, but I Love Faris is a great first step for an artist who aspires to eventually carve out his own niche in the rock canon. As the class of smart, tuneful songwriters is always fairly crowded, Faris Nourallah will probably need a considerable amount of luck to accrue enough attention to rise to the top of the competitive field. Still, most good songwriters eventually find their audience, and like the movie that shares his name, his music might have to wait until word of mouth gives him the credit he deserves.