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Standout Track: No. 7, “Close the Roads,” an earnest, country-tinged lullaby by a band better known for witty punk-pop. The quintet strips down to acoustic guitar and drums as lead singer Martin Royle tries to cheer up hopeless hipsters, singing, “You’re not alone/And your heart’s not made of stone/And this town is not as empty as it seems.”
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Musical Motivation: Washington Social Club’s first album, Catching Looks, attracted a flurry of critical attention after its 2004 release. And then—nothing, recalls Royle. “We had this ‘next big thing’ thing, and that didn’t so much happen,” says the 29-year-old Glover Park resident. “So I just went to the [Black] Cat to try to be positive and try to be part of a scene.” Instead, Royle often found himself sitting alone at the bar. So he wrote a hopeful song to himself and others who feel similarly isolated. “I wanted to make this song the most universal song possible—which is something I usually don’t do.”
Lounge Act: The live version of “Close the Roads,” however, isn’t quite as earnest as the album cut. Onstage, the band gives the guitar shuffle a more propulsive, Sinatra-esque swing beat. “The live version is a little more lounge-singer,” says Royle. While crooning is not quite in line with his original vision of the song, it’s necessary to keep audiences happy, he says. “You are rocking through, and then you get to the point where you are going to play the softer songs. The look in these kids’ eyes—it’s horrible. They look like they are going to fucking die.