The lyrics on Redline Graffiti's new album, "The Mere Souls," map out some treacherous turf. Take a wrong turn on "pain street" and you might end up in the emergency room, or on a lethal dance floor, or near a burning gas station, or eventually inside a cafe where, "as the coffee and the omelet come, a tank goes rolling down the street." But sonically, the best songs from this District quartet feel light and slippery — a daydreamy swirl of rock, electro, new wave, doo-wop and R&B by musicians too young (or maybe just too smart) to care about the idea of genre. So you'll want to watch your step.
Prioritizing mood over style, bandleader Drew Moten says he started writing these tunes during "that third-of-life-crisis thing, when you're moving from your 20s into your 30s. . . . But then, the [Trump] administration brought in this greater spirit of despair that people seemed to be feeling universally. So it's a melding of those two realms of woe."
Still, the songs never sound like double-shots of panic. "We want [our music] to be inviting and danceable but to convey a feeling of anxiety," he says. "It's really about perseverance, almost like New Orleans second-line music," a jubilant style of jazz traditionally associated with funeral ceremonies. "Those musicians are confronting the pain of what's going on," Moten says, "but it's still dance music, and it's all sincere."
Shows: Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Holy Underground, 2021 Maryland Ave., Baltimore. theholyunderground.tumblr.com. $10. Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at Uptown Art House, 3412 Connecticut Ave. NW. facebook.com/UptownArtHouse. $10.