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The National is wide awake in ‘Sleep Well Beast’

Grade A+

On Friday, Sept. 8, The National resurfaced in their seventh album, “Sleep Well Beast,”
reminding us of the divine power of their music.

Over a mix of digital echoes and drum loops, frontman Matt Berninger dives deeper into the pool of his own troubles. The album takes you on a tour through the locked doors of Beringer’s mind. Beringer transforms his personal and complex emotions into bites for his audience to consume. The album frequently produces moments that feel more like confessional intimacies than song lyrics.  

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Berninger gave more insight into his process and motive. “[It is] about marriage, and it’s about marriages falling apart. I’m happily married, and but it’s hard, marriage is hard and my wife and I are writing the lyrics together about our own struggles and it’s difficult to write, but it’s saving my marriage. Not saving my marriage, my marriage is healthy, but it’s good for everything! And so it’s gonna be a strange record, and I’m crazy about it.”

However, the album is much more dynamic and intricate than that.

The first single, entitled “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” was released in early May. In an interview with Pitchfork, Beringer discussed how the album is “an abstract portrait of a weird time we’re in.” The single feels politically inspired, yet it is not overstated. “There’s political content in almost every song we’ve ever written on some level. It colors everything. There was no intention that this was more political than before.”

Cultivated through their nearly 20-year career, this album hosts a menagerie of new sounds and styles, yet still provokes the same feelings that their earlier work did. The magic behind The National’s music spurs from its lyrics. Beringer’s songs are woven from multiple strings of consciousness. The moments created are so specific, while maintaining the ability to be relatable the listener’s ears. When you listen to these songs, you feel as though you are living intimate moments with Beringer. The lyrics in the album’s title track describe that all too well:

Go back to sleep, let me drive, let me think, let me figure it out

How to get us back to the place where we were when we first went out.”

All in all, this album feels like a tragically romantic scene found in any movie. The double doors open, people are dancing in slow motion. You gaze across the dance floor searching for the love of your life. The crowd breaks apart and a spotlight shines on your other half, dancing with someone else.

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