It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Nicole Dollanganger’s atmospheric folk-tinted bedroom rock and Harmony Korine’s filmography. On Natural Born Losers, there’s “A Marvelous Persona”, a nod to Gummo’s larger-than-life bad boy Tummler, he of the marvelous persona. Dollanganger has previously referenced Korine’s directorial debut, following “Bunny Boy” from 2014’s BabyLand, along with a haunting homage to Beverly Marsh from Stephen King’s “It”.
Bunny boys, cool losers, battered heroines haunted by abusive fathers and homicidal shape-shifting clowns, all of these images would be at home in a Nicole Dollanganger record.
Like Korine’s work, there is nothing all that ominous and unsettling on the surface of Dollanganger’s ghostly folk music. Korine’s movies focus on the lives of the fringe dwellers – trailer park denizens and celebrity impostors. Korine shows the darkness and desperation of “normal people” eking out an existence, but not as some morality tale. The darkness is just a shade and texture, like a cloud passing across a midday sun.
Similarly, Nicole Dollanganger is not here to judge. If anything she seems to have a love for the down-and-out and disenfranchised. She loves and accepts a power-hungry police officer on “Mean”, while making drinking cheap beer on the porch seem like the most romantic thing ever on “White Trashing”.
Musically, Natural Born Losers is all sweetness and light, with Dollanganger’s high, clear, innocent vocals meeting dreamlike guitars and occasional thunderheads of bass and drums. Lyrically, Natural Born Losers is darker than a dozen Burzum records, however, like when she shoots an angel and hangs it on her bedroom wall on “Poacher’s Pride”.
Nicole Dollanganger has delivered a deep and complex surreal emotional experience with Natural Born Losers. It’s a chilling, harrowing, exciting, real, heartfelt record. Grimes’ believes in Dollanganger’s music to essentially launch a label to make sure people hear it. You’d be advised to listen, and hear one of this year’s greatest underground statements.
— Words by J Simpson