Optic Sink—the noise-rock/post-punk project of Natalie Hoffman from NOTS and Ben Bauermeister of Magic Kids—is releasing their debut album soon, and today we’re premiering their second single, “Exhibitionist.”
“‘Exhibitionist’ is about the identity crisis that comes from our on-screen presence,” the duo says about the track. “From the pressure to constantly commodify yourself, market yourself, appear to be a certain thing—the best thing—on social media, to the cold machine eye on the other side that is always watching, taking notes, fitting all of us neatly into its algorithm, and selling this idea of the best version of ourselves back to us. And the overwhelming evidence is that we’re buying it, but what are we actually paying for it?”
It seems to live in the same world as Weeping Icon’s eponymous album where the stakes are high, the volume is loud, and social media is wrecking our brains. “Exhibitionist” follows Optic Sink’s lead single, “Personified,” which reckons with dystopia, chaos, and A.I.
The two put together a playlist of songs that inspired them, which can be found below. Optic Sink arrives October 2 via Goner Records, and it’s available for pre-order here.
Alexander Robotnick, “Computer Sourire”
Such an Italo banger! My favorite part of this one is the break at 2:44. Should be, and probably is, an edit.
Chemise, “She Can’t Love You”
This is one of my favorite songs of all time. Why are there so few Chemise songs?? Is this song perfect? Yes?? Production, performance, arrangement, it’s all perfection.
DJ Seinfeld, “U”
I love the perfect balance of this “just right” lo-fi mix. It makes a great reference track for mixing some of my own stuff. I’m a sucker for emotional dance music. Chills when the kick drops out. Tears on the dancefloor.
Psychic Mirrors, “Charlene”
This is my favorite modern boogie track ever. I don’t know why this band isn’t world famous. Where are their Grammys?
The big homie, the man himself, straight outta The Hague, it is Legowelt (a.k.a. Gladio). “One of the good ones” home studio druid, and a huge inspiration, generally speaking.
The Stranglers, “Hanging Around”
I love The Stranglers. I mean…that bass. Honestly! And those keys! The relationship of the bass and the organ/keys is the kind of thing that if you were to try to just describe it to someone it would sound like the worst combination. They’re both in constant, insane motion, and don’t seem like they should go together at all—but they do and it’s perfect. The lyrics to this song are incredible, too. I love the snapshots of regular people up against the chorus about Christ made mundane talking to his mother…all just hanging around. RIP Dave Greenfield.
The Normal, “Warm Leatherette”
Buckle up—this one is a an essay. This is honestly where the DIY and synth world opened up for me. Around a decade ago I read “Rip it Up and Start Again” by Simon Reynolds and learned about Daniel Miller. Here’s a summary of what I read that really resonated with me:
After reading about how easy The Desperate Bicycles said it was to make a record in a Melody Maker article, Daniel Miller “…rushed out and bought a secondhand Korg synth for 150 pounds and then worked overtime at his film editing job until he could afford a four-track mini studio. Working in his North London bedroom he created “T.V.O.D.” and “Warm Leatherette,” the two sides of his self-released debut single as The Normal.”
I remember looking this single up after reading this paragraph and just having my mind completely blown by how good it was. And then, of course, I realized Grace Jones’ “Warm Leatherette” was a cover of this! That’s another essay, I love that version too. This single is amazing and both songs are a total inspiration to me as just incredible songs, but learning about the process—that he made this sparse, tough, crazy, unique synth music by layering parts at home in his bedroom totally upended my approach to writing and recording…and what instruments I played. I quickly ditched the idea of recording on my computer (I wasn’t good at it anyway, too many options) and bought a four-track, and then went on to layer recordings of a shitty Yamaha thrift store synth into the four track along with some guitar and bass and that’s how the Optic Sink songs started. And I recorded a NOTS cover of “T.V.O.D.” for a single on Goner.
Oppenheimer Analysis, “Devil’s Dancers”
This entire album is incredible so it was hard to choose a song, but “Devil’s Dancers” just strikes this perfect chord for me of being both completely danceable and catchy and having some very eerie and excellent lyrics: “We’re the devil’s dancers / Swinging all the answers / Dance with us” Perfect. The main synth riff is A+, too. Also, Andy Oppenheimer’s story is crazy—I’ll spare you another essay, but I highly recommend you go into that vortex after listening to this song.
Lizzy Mercier Descloux, “Torso Corso”
The amount of tension this 1:50-long song generates is impressive. I love the way the song feels like it’s swirling around her vocals and building and then it just abruptly ends. Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s experimental take on punk is so cool—she prioritizes the way a song feels over how a song “should” go, which is always a great thing in concept but a tough thing to actually pull off.
Depeche Mode, “Never Let Me Down”
I act like a total and complete idiot when this song comes on when I’m out. I mean air punches, baritone singing—the works. This one goes straight to my heart. I love this song. I love Depeche Mode. Catchy as hell and such a beautiful and complicated song about addiction. The music video is gorgeous, too. Like a Godard short. I watched it on YouTube today and someone in the comments really nailed it: “There is something special with Depeche Mode…a mix of tragedy, hope, inspiration and deeply human…timeless and so powerful.” Amen.
Sparks, “La Dolce Vita”
This is another one off of an album where it’s just so hard to choose one song. I mean, it’s the Sparks album produced by Giorgio Moroder so it’s already good just in concept, but actually hearing it surpasses even those sky high expectations. “Tryouts for the Human Race” and “#1 Song in Heaven” are both excellent songs, but “La Dolce Vita” is one of my favorite songs of all time. And this song is full of great lines—“Looking real bored is what you pay me for, La Dolce Vita / Looking real bored’s as hard as scrubbing floors, La Dolce Vita / I’m overpaid but still I’ll ask for more, La Dolce Vita / Baby, after all you’ve got to help the poor, La Dolce Vita.” And the synth textures…hell, the entire production on this song and this record…what a dream.