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Standout Track: No. 1, “Concrete Faults,” which opens with pounding drums, machine-gun guitar, and lyrics such as “Raise your fists and shout.” After the postpunk call to action, however, the band about-faces to poking fun at some of Washington’s many activists on the chorus: “I’m trying to get some new results/I only expose all my faults.”

Musical Motivation: According to lead vocalist Nayan Bhula, 31, early versions of the song described the D.C. trio’s financial troubles. “The first line used to be, ‘I got no money; I can’t pay my rent,’” Bhula says. “But I was like, This is dumb. I don’t want to write about that.” Eventually, his words mutated into a statement on the efficacy of protest.

Though they’re familiar faces on the benefit-show scene, the members of Gist sometimes doubt that music is an adequate response to such large-scale events as tsunamis, war, and gentrification, says Bhula. He hopes that “Concrete Faults” expresses his frustration—but not his resignation. “Sometimes it seems like it’s futile—the things you do, the fights you have,” he says. “But then you just gotta keep going.”

HISTORY’S DEBUNK: The band hopes the track will encourage its activist friends to take a look at history, says 31-year-old bassist Finley Martin, who points to the lines “Turn all the slums into suburbs/And the suburbs into slums” as especially significant. In fact, rising property values priced him out of his town house in Columbia Heights—an upsetting but not unprecedented example of historical change. “In the ’40s and ’50s,” he notes, “this was where the rich people lived.” —Sadie Dingfelder