Track Review: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” by The National

Hark! The next highly-anticipated National album is on its way! Matt Berninger and company have recently released a new track called “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” from their 7th upcoming LP Sleep Well Beast due out September 8, 2017. Their next album will mark their first major album since Trouble Will Find Me came out in May 2013. There are a lot of similar sounds to the old National sound but with a twist – it feels a lot more free.

Previous interviews have revealed that the band has a history of rigorous recording sessions. To me, the song has an air of unkemptness, yet retains expertly written lyrics, percussion, background vocals, and guitar riffs. The track opens up with a brief, eerie chorus of female singers and cuts immediately into a dark piano intro. Drums are as good as ever and the rugged, driving guitar solo presents a unique side of The National that we have not really heard since their second LP Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers. Together, the guitar parts, vocals, drums, bass, and everything else work together impressively to illustrate a picture of the state of the world today.

We live in a confusing time. The pressures of the world seem to be collapsing and destabilizing systems of governance and order. Matt Berninger expresses his confusion of the system: “I cannot explain it any other way.” It’s tough to explain the state of the world today. And it is true, “we are in a different kind of thing now.” There is a lot going on right now that is tough to dissect. The song suggests this album is likely going to be heavy with political and social commentary. Look out, world.
Pre-order the album here. Read Stereogum’s excellent cover story here.

Jake Paule


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