DC punk legends Fugazi were a musical gateway drug of sorts for me. Not only were Fugazi instrumental in my introduction to the world of punk, emo, and hardcore music, but more specifically they were my first real taste of that “DC sound.” To the uninitiated the DC sound can be hard to describe. When you’ve been inundated with it as much as I have you just tend to think of it as “that music I like.” If you hold it up against similar regional scenes however, the identifiers become more pronounced: a predilection toward non-standard time signatures, intricate picking, minor chords, and a guitar sound that’s crisp, but still a little dirty so as not to sound too clean or over processed while maintaining a respectable layer of crunchiness. Since the last DC scene explosion of the early 2000’s came to an end it’s been rarer and rarer to hear new music with that distinctive sound even within the District. Imagine my surprise when I was introduced to the music of Austin’s Pswingset and found a bit of that DC sound alive and kicking here in the Lone Star State.
On their full-length debut Pswingset carve out their own unique niche in the Austin scene, while striking chords I thought had been lost somewhere along the mid-Atlantic coast. All Our False Starts is a well-balanced LP showcasing nine rich soundscapes that for me recall the mathier end of the DC Sound spectrum as embodied by bands like Faraquet and Medications while coupled with the drive of Jawbox and the moody introspection of Richmond, VA’s Bats and Mice. Pswingset’s lilting, angular guitars and rippling rhythms weave an intricate and heavily textured tapestry through every moment of All Our False Starts in a way that connects one song to the next like moments in time during the haze of a late summer evening. This isn’t an album that’s going to get you on your feet, but it’s a great one to get lost in. If you’re like me and you tend to get bored with the tried and true staples of 4/4 time signatures and standard chord progressions in rock music, Pswingset’s sound is an excellent change of pace.
Perhaps the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of this release is that I find it hard to latch onto any one song at a time, but instead just hit “repeat” on the entire album. Tracks like “Husk,” “Bokeh,” and “Gold & Mud” certainly stand out, but overall it’s as if Pswingset have created an album of background music that you can’t help but play again and again like you would the latest pop singles. When all is said and done, All Our False Starts is just a bit of that beloved “DC Sound” winding its way through my brain again, and to find a bit of that here in Austin just goes to show how vast and wonderful this music scene really is.