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A Good Day For A Migraine

Jesse Younan
A Good Day For A Migraine

(Buy mp3s)

Streetlight Sunrise

Jesse Younan
Streetlight Sunrise

Swimming In Stone

Jesse Younan
Swimming In Stone

Donne Restom, Drum Media 2008

"Take something beautiful and go and smash it"

That line from Take Something Beautiful is a perfect example of the spirit of this beautiful album. A Good Day for a Migraine tricks you into thinking it will just float on by and it kicks you in the head with its honesty.

Blowfly would have worked with an orchestra and bellowing horn section. Instead a rag-tag crew of odd instruments including theremin, flute, strings and slide whistle allow the brilliance of Younan's lyrics to cut through. The chorus of Whatever Floats laps upon your consciousness like tidal waters just before a thunderstorm. By the time C'est La Vie come around you have been pulled under. Deep. For Younan's words go straight to the heart. Before you know it, these words have wrapped said heart in brown paper and string, taken it out and posted it express to your guts.

This however is to say nothing of the skill with which this man wields his instrument. Younan is already renowned for his intricate guitar playing and this album will not disappoint. Added to this is Christian Pyle's near perfect production. Each song's colours are chosen with a delicacy that pays attention to its narrative, and the placement of instruments within the mix deepens these haunting pieces without ever detracting from the vocal line.

Simply this album is a beautiful, vivid collection of works whose stories become more and more real with each listen.


Noel Mengel, The Courier-Mail

Softly, softly, Sublime music

Much of what happens in our lives today today is about instant impact. Perhaps not surprising: when there's so much competition for our attention , you have to make a big splash to be heard.

But our minds don't always work in sync with that, and many great things in the arts world - especially in music - work best when their nuances have time to resonate.
Like the latest album from Australian singer-songwriter Jesse Younan, A Good Day for a Migraine (Vitamin), a sublime collection of tracks based around his supple finger picking acoustic guitar style  and observations of some of life's harsh realities in his lyrics.

"Take something beautiful and go and smash it," he sings on Something Beautiful, with his intricate guitar style contrasting with the dark subject matter and the emotion of a hovering violin.

Younan share something with English acoustic guitarust greats like Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson, men who don't flinch in their in their honest accounts of emotional wreckage. They come from the folk tradition but also sound contemporary..
Whatever Floats features a gentle rippling guitar that's reminiscent of Nick Drake, but inside it is a story of domestic violence.

The ominous C'est La Vie ("I've been digging my own grave, kicking dirt in my own face") has a European feel and some gypsy flavour from violin; Mercy is juanty musically if not lyrically.

Perhaps the finest of all is Blame Me, told from the point of view of a father separated from his young daughter and aching to see more of her despite her mothers best efforts to keep them apart.

I've always thought of Thompson as the man who has written the saddest songs I've ever heard, Younan certainly gives him a run for his money.
A haunting record, but a beautiful one. Make sure you give it all the time it deserves.
Younan has other struggles to cope with. Only days after completing the album this year he was diagnosed with leukemia and is unable to tour to promote it.
Hear a sample of his music and send him a get well messege, at www.jesseyounan.com

Capital News November 2008 (Vol 33 No. 11)

This posthumous release by Australian JESSE YOUNAN, who passed away in July this year, is undoubtedly world class and at times heartstopping in its integrity and feel. Although I wouldn't call it country music, it is definitely more of a roots/blues outing, it did appeal in a low down and hurting way. Jesse himself said that ' . . the way I approach music is similar to the blues. It's about making the soul audible,and isn't that what country music sometimes does to us? The music is bare and the lyrics are hard, unsentimental in most cases and you can feel the pain and the pleasure in these songs. You will feel for the singer when you hear Migraine, Mercy or My Addiction and you will undoubtedly wonder where it all came from. This is not music to dance to, but it will move you, and it could easily move you to play it again.

Dom Alessio, The Brag 2008

Indie Album Of The Week

It's impossible to review A Good Day for a Migraine and not mention Jesse Younan's current battle with leukaemia. The two are inextricably linked, a fact which he makes clear from the start when you pick up the CD: A Good Day for a  Migraine references the ailment he was diagnosed with during the recording process of the album.

But rather than cloak the music in a morbid black veil, A Good Day for a Migraine, for the most part, is disarmingly positive and optimistic. Even the dichotomous title expresses Younan’s bright outlook. “There are reasons for everything / There’s no coincidences,” he croons on ‘Road Long Been Travelled’. An introspective piece of art, ‘A Good Day for a Migraine’ is one of the most emotional and frankly real albums I’ve heard for a long time. Devoid of pretension, the songs contained within are intimately personal, a dairy set to music as Younan uses his lyrics to evaluate his feelings and make sense of a senseless disease. Take C’est la Vie’ – with lyrics “I’ve got this disease / It’s taking me for a ride / I just wanna get out,” you get sucked into Younan’s spiralling world.

It’s really hard to say something negative about this album. Younan’s soulful voice and storyteller lyrics are the focal point of A Good Day for a Migraine, accompanied quite often simply by Younan’s finger-plucked acoustic guitar; roots and folk melodies mixed in with gypsy and Spanish flavours. Being this raw benefits the record immensely, as it’s all about Younan’s criminally underrated songwriting skills.

I know there’s a lot of folky singer-songwriters in this country, but give Jesse Younan a chance. Then thank me later.

Bernard Zuel, SMH May 2008

This is a wonderful album we can't afford to let slip by. It infiltrates your day and your life and does it without waving a single obvious flag. And then it haunts you. 
There is no softness in a Jesse Younan song but there is much tenderness. By that I mean that he doesn't avert his eyes, or yours, from harshness lived or observed.

He doesn't pretend. Instead he finds the soul and the heart by the very act of being open and honest, by saying "I've been kicking dirt in my own face and now I'm paying the price" in C'est La Vie and by laying out a tune which can positively ache and leave your own heart beautifully bruised such as Blame Me.

Younan's fine tenor voice can take a turn to husky earthiness without ever succumbing to a growl and his settings are usually kept to a minimum to let the voice take centre stage. In these songs there are touches of country, Dylanesque folk rock, blues and even pre-rock pop music. There is also something of Augie March's Glenn Richards in completely stripped-back mode. Most of all there is a deep well of there-it-is-I've-lived-it emotion. Astonishingly good.

Chris Peken, Alternative Media Group 2008

Jesse Younan sets himself apart from the "another man, another guitar, another singer/songwriter" pack in two ways. Firstly Younan's is one of the more talented acoustic guitarists treading the boards, his fine picking style sitting him somewhere between the folk of Richard Thompson and the the blues of Tim Buckley. And secondly the Tim Buckley compassion doesn't stop there, for there are moments, flashes, when Younan's finely timbered mellifluous vocals begin to soar in a way that touches on the Buckleyesque (without reaching the vertigo inspiring heights that only Tim Buckley could). Take Something Beautiful being the most obvious example, a beautifully melancholy number (it's a wonder what a minor key can do) that sits quietly over the subtlest of guitar lines and the hint of violins before slowly releasing a soaring vocal without ever needing to let the instruments follow. This bravery and departure from the obvious is what makes A Good Day For a Migraine a cut above the usual fare. Later forays around electronica - C'est La Vie - don't work quiet as well, but a Knofler-like closure to the album in the form of Hot Shot further showcases what Younan is capable of - great tenderness and impressive expressiveness.

*** 1/2

Michael Dwyer, The Age 2008

Sydney singer-guitarist Jesse Younan has a percussive fingerpicking style reminiscent of sharpening knives, and he sure knows how to use them. His huge, impeccably calibrated voice is never less than brutally truthful, but what begins as a generic prayer for healing (Medicine Man) unfolds into an intense journal of a damaged life. The centrepiece, Whatever Floats, counts the cost of domestic abuse in devastating strokes that cast a grim pall over later songs of addiction, illness and separation. The tonic is the miraculous beauty of his music, unembellished but for violin or other simple colours, ringing clear and strong in the unassailable refuge of song.

Ray Hirst, Adelaide Advertiser 2008

If you need an antidote to sweet over-produced pop, this is it. Mostly unacompanied but for his brilliant guitar, Younan shows his blues and bluegrass influences with some razor sharp picking, interlaced with hauntingly beautiful classic folk.

But it is his voice and his ability as a songwriter which truly dominate his fourth recording. Younan's themes of domestic violence, addiction, separation and struggle leave you with the feeling that you have had a deep musical conversation. A heartfelt journey that is ultimately life affirming - this is why we love music.

Jesse Shrock, Beat Magazine 2008

Talking to Jesse Younan constitutes one of those rare occasions where I am guaranteed an interviewee’s full attention, but feel a little guilty about taking it. Younan is currently bedridden, undergoing treatment for a particularly nasty form of leukaemia, and talking to me about his latest album Nice Day For A Migraine seems to consume all his strength.

The title of Younan’s album took on an eerie topicality when he was diagnosed with leukaemia just two days after turning in the finished mix. Though the warning signs about Younan’s health had been mounting over the past few weeks, an apparent combination of passion and bloody-mindedness drove him to press ahead with recording regardless.

“It just seemed important to get (the album) done,” Younan says, seeming himself a little mystified at his stubborn resolve. “I’m not sure why… there was just something different about this one.

“When I wasn’t recording, I was in cold sweats in bed. I couldn’t walk five feet without resting or wanting to pass out. My head was killing me all the time, and I just wasn’t connecting with anything… apart from the songs, you know. I kind of knew something was up, (but) I figured I would sort it out later…”

Jesse manages a husky laugh. “I guess it’s common for blokes to leave things like going to the doctor to the last minute. I know it was a stupid thing to do, but I never expected to be told what I was told… I finally realised how sick I was in hospital, where I was being told everything from ‘you’re on death’s door’ to ‘you’re not going to make it to the end of the week…’ All that sort of thing. And when I thought about it, I realised: ‘Shit, I could have been one of those people you hear about who’s just found dead at the pub room in Murrumbimbee…’ But I guess I made it in time.”

Though not worth the price he almost paid to finish it, (nothing could be) Jesse is right to think of his album as something special. Grounded in an palpable sense of honesty, Nice Day… is a tour-de-force for Younan’s compelling ‘storyteller’ vocals, and his unique, at times intricate but always free-flowing guitar style - both of which he developed on his own.

“I guess (there’s) less constraint in being self-taught,” Younan reflects. “Boundaries are kind of further away. It tests your own will in how much you want to push yourself, and you’re kind of left on your own to do that. When you realise things on your own, they kind of mean more to you.”

While seeming a little uncomfortable at going into specifics, Younan assures that all the songs on the album – some of them almost confronting in their tangible emotion – are inspired by his own life. “I follow that golden rule ‘write what you know’,” Younan says. “It’s pretty much like me documenting photographs of my own life. Any one song you pick has come from a moment or an entire lifetime.”

“And once (the songs) are down,” he adds, “they’re gone. I never listen back to my albums… It’s kind of the way I work, that once I’ve recorded a song, I just start wanting to think of the next one.” “

Usually content with keeping his guitar and vocals unadorned, Younan’s partnership with more adventurous producer Christian Pyle resulted in some songs – such as the semi-orchestral and darkly humorous Blowfly – getting a grander production treatment. Elsewhere on the album, Pyle and Younan create percussion from household bric-a-brac and filter sounds through children’s walkie-talkies.

“As far the production goes, I kind of let (Christian) have free reign, and then when I thought he was going too far, I reigned him back in,” Younan explains. “It was all about maintaining the integrity of the song… I was happy to let him lay down whatever and just see what it sounded like. We jammed on a few things, and knocked around with sounds and stuff… But if anything was distracting from the song, then I didn’t want it.”

I’ll admit there’s a certain feeling of unease in pestering an already burdened soul with such ostensibly frivolous matters; every question I ask Younan obliges him to take another audibly laboured breath, and with each one I feel a little more ludicrous. But my guilt is misplaced… Not only was this interview was Younan’s idea, but, once it’s over, I get a call from his publicist to discuss whether she should accede to his request for more interviews.

“I’ve never really questioned why, it just seems to be the process,” Younan says of his decision to press ahead with interviews and publicity schedules. “I put off the whole question of how I was feeling until the album was finished. Now, while I’m here, it kind of makes sense to keep going.”

Given Younan’s ‘play what you know’ philosophy, I suggest it’s a safe bet the next songs he writes will draw heavily from his present circumstances. What sort of songs can he see himself writing about his struggle with leukaemia?

“I not thinking about anything like that at the moment,” Younan replies. “I really feel like I’m on a distant planet… My life at the moment is walking around with a drip, lying on my bed looking out the window all day. I can’t even play the guitar at this point – I don’t have the dexterity in my fingers. I’ve lost a lot of weight, and I’m really weak...”

“(But) that question you’re asking is one I’ve been asking myself… I’m actually curious as to how this will change me at the end of it, because I feel that it is changing me. I’m just not sure in what way.”

Michael Pincott, Rave Magazine 2008

Acoustic musings from Australian troubadour

This is Younan's fourth full-length and with it he has continued to build upon his established foundation of intricate guitar work, solid songwriting and emotive vocals. Opener Medicine Man has a nursery rhyme-like rhythm to it that is simple but effective and assists in etching the song into the listener's brain. The focus of the record is very clearly on the guitar and on Younan's voice, and this simple approach shifts extra importance onto the strength of the songwriting, which is by and large solid but lacks a certain flair or individuality, sounding too much like what has come before - though Blowfly stands out distinctly from the pack. Younan is solid in his vocal delivery which is unique and textured. The guitar work is of consistently high standard, and its dominance throughout compliments Younan's vocals. This is a strong outing which fans of acoustic balladry will get a lot out of.