The National are at their most lucid on “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”

Like most songs from the National, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” takes multiple listens to reveal all its hues. Matt Berninger’s baritone is as crisp as ever, the Dessners and Devendorfs as economical, precise in their execution as anything on their last, great album Trouble Will Find Me. Yet “The System” carries with it an urgency we haven’t really felt from the band since Berninger assured us he wouldn’t “fuck us over” on Alligator highlight “Mr. November.” While their newest single doesn’t reinvent what it means to be “the National” in 2017, it reminds us why their strain of indie rock is so vital to our climate. There’s a thoughtfulness, an attention to detail here that only comes from an act nearing 20 years of existence, an act that could only be the National. I couldn’t explain it any other way.

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