End Of The Day (Music From The Film Anonymous Club)

Courtney Barnett

Milk! Records, 2023


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


There’s a certain feeling I get when I’m in a room with just one person—or possibly a small, familiar group—and someone begins to play an instrument. Whether it’s guitar or piano or something else, once they begin to play a recognizable melody, the hairs on my arms all go to attention. A few more notes in an otherwise still and relaxed environment and the goosebumps extend from the crown of my scalp to my shoulder blades in a sensation I once described as “a solid swath of flesh screaming a kind of inchoate joy.” (Yeah, yeah, ASMR, blah, blah. How about we just wallow in the magic of the moment instead?)

This is not a sensation I anticipated encountering while listening to a Courtney Barnett album—but then I doubt End Of The Day is an album that anyone could ever have anticipated that Courtney Barnett would make.

Between the third and fourth quarters the quadrilogy of albums that formed the initial universe of songs released by the precociously talented Aussie singer-songwriter-guitarist, Barnett consented to have documentary filmmaker Danny Cohen follow her around from show to show, and in between shows, filmed herself talking to a camera as she worked out melodies, stray thoughts, feelings, and traumas in solitude. This vulnerable, intimate, revealing, and ultimately uplifting portrait of a young artist trying to figure out her life—or at least figure out how best to navigate it—became my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 the compelling documentary Anonymous Club.

To frame and underscore many of these scenes in the film, Barnett and co-producer Stella Mozgawa (on synthesizer here) created these tracks on the fly as they watched Cohen’s final cut of the film. It’s hard to overstate the ballsiness of this approach: a songwriter known for her acerbic tales of modern life improvising a series of preternaturally calm and soothing instrumentals on electric guitar, using gentle feedback and reverb to create a warm cavern filled with hums and strums and drones that echo sinuously through the listener’s imagination.

Okay, fine, cool. But issue a whole album of these wordless, atmospheric morsels, the majority of them under two minutes long? Um… why?

It’s a move that makes no career sense for an artist who made her name as a hyper-verbal Everywoman snarking her way through her twenties with vividly narrated story-songs. And yet for a certain breed of listener—like this one—it works rather spectacularly. I didn’t expect to listen to this album more than once and have instead found myself choosing its soothing, contemplative sounds again and again in recent weeks when that’s what the moment seems to call for.

I can’t really single out any of the tracks by name, but there are 17 of them on this 40-minute album, ranging in length from a flickering 0:22 (“Sun Through”) to a languorous 5:44 (“Get On With It”), and together they have induced more of those instances of inchoate joy than I’ve felt in some time. This music is ethereal, luminous, subtle, meditative, and thoroughly wonderful.

This album also represents a curious and courageous choice made by an artist whose core commitment today, it seems, is to follow her instincts. Let that be a lesson for us all. End Of The Day felt like a throwaway when I picked it up, but has grown into one of my favorite listens of the year.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2023 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Milk! Records, and is used for informational purposes only.