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“The system only dreams in total darkness / Why are you hiding from me? / We’re in a different kind of thing now / All night you’re talking to God.”  Alternative rock collective The National, led by Matt Berninger, have plenty to say on “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” a gem from their 2017 Grammy-winning album, Sleep Well Beast.  The aforementioned excerpt seems to reference a suspect, sketchy social and political climate, while also taking a shot at those who merely cling to God and religion as opposed to logic and reason.  Notably, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and Sleep Well Beast arrives after arguably the biggest political upset in American history – the election of Donald Trump. 

Politics fuel The National on “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness.”  That said, Matt Berninger never explicitly mentions politics, opting for ‘abstract’ lyrics – more on that later. Sure, the chorus can be interpreted as a reaction to the 2016 election, but its written in a way to convey transcendence beyond one specific event.  Berninger simply, but tellingly sings, “I can’t explain it / Any other way, any other way.”

So, ultimately, what does this record have to do with atonement? Essentially, Matt Berninger and company are trying to wrap their minds around how strange the times have become and, to some extent, what’s the next move.  How do those ‘abstract’ lyrics contribute? In an interview with Pitchfork, Berninger describes “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” as “an abstract portrait of the weird time we’re in.” The band seems to be looking to cope and atone for various problems, sketchy ideologies, and a barrage of issues facing America.  Also, there’s the implication that the more ‘passive,’ faith-based crowd and extreme right-wingers should consider embracing more rational thought.

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About The Curator - Brent Faulkner

Brent Faulkner - Music to Curator

Slightly eccentric with interests that seem to know no ends, restless ‘Renaissance Man’ is the best way to characterize Brent Faulkner, a native of Kentucky.  A certified music educator, multi-instrumentalist, and composer known for his incredibly sharp ear, he lives and breathes music of a variety of styles.  In addition to passion for educating, performing, and writing music, he’s equally passionate blogging and writing about it, managing his own site, The Musical Hype ( When he’s not intensely analyzing music, you can find him reading or watching a movie, reality television or some sporting event.