Not that we need to compare artistes in order to make a point, but it’s hard not to listen to Nicole Dollanganger – she of Grimes signing – or look at her album cover and just think about what Natural Born Losers she’s talking about. Her lo-fi approach, her own little story, reminds us a lot of another youngling this year called Soak.
What they have in common is, for want of a better term, outsider pop. Like that other debut, Dollanganger carves out beautiful melodies from being a bit of a self-perceived loner/loser, yet (like the gimp-mask of her album sleeve) wears this with unabashed pride. Poacher’s Pride, in fact, as the first song details, revealing her high and delicate tones that wrap around the barest of chords. It’s a gateway to some seriously dark and murky set-ups, the sort that would both get national attention but also make you recoil in Fritzl-esque discomfort.
But with that picture and self-perception comes the baring of darker thoughts and personal psychological insights that go beyond just shock value. “There’s nothing you could do to me I wouldn’t do to myself,” she sings on Mean, a haunting picture of what appears to be co-dependency and a victim’s folly. There’s an element of us that eventually feels worn out by Dollanganger’s one octave throughout the album, but then songs like You’re So Cool are delivered to beautifully that it’s easy to overlook the slightly swampy mid-section. Still, while we might all consider ourselves natural born losers at some juncture, it’s nice to have someone as unique and, well, downright affecting as Nicole Dollanganger repping for us all.
Natural Born Losers by Nicole Dollanganger can be ordered here.