Nicole Dollanganger

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Curdled Milk (2012), 6/10
Flowers of Flesh and Blood (2012), 5/10
Ode to Dawn Wiener (2013), 6/10 (mini)
Observatory Mansions (2014), 7/10
Natural Born Losers (2015), 6.5/10
Heart Shaped Bed (2018), 5/10
Married in Mount Airy (2023), 5/10

Canadian singer-songwriter Nicole Dollanganger debuted with the stripped-down folkish tunes of Curdled Milk (2012), recorded in her bathroom. Her high-pitched child-like voice intones charming melodies in the company of an acoustic guitar and the feeling is actually of emptiness and silence, the sort of calm that hides desolation. And in fact her stories range from melancholy to depressed, regardless of whether the music evokes sparkling folk (Come Baby), yodeling old-time music (Ghosts), slocore (Valley of the Dead) or nursery rhymes (Cries of the Elephant Man Bones.

Flowers of Flesh and Blood (2012) continues in the same vein, with even more ephemeral elegies like Cement and Lividity, still devoted to disturbing topics with casual nonchalance.

The 25-minute mini-album Ode to Dawn Wiener - Embarrassing Love Songs (2013) is bookended by two unusually lively tunes like True Love Cafe and Blue Moon Motel , and in between there is one of her melodic peaks, Ugly. They are all love songs, with fairly blunt confessions, inspired by Dawn Wiener, the twelve-year-old lonely misfit of Todd Solondz's 1995 film Welcome to the Dollhouse.

She was still recording the music in her bedroom. She returned to her morbid fascination on Observatory Mansions (2014), another mini-album, which is, if possible, even more effective in the way it contrasts her sweet melodies with the bleakest stories. She has also improved the "arrangements" required to maximize the effect of this endless parade of miseries. Her arrangements are minimal, often limited to one instrument, but increasingly they mirror the topic. The droning organ enhances the lugubrious Rampage. The sparse, almost Zen, guitar tones increase the hypnotic quality of Creek Blues, perhaps her best yet. Her overdubbed voice becomes a funeral choir in Choking Games. Her voice rises more than usually in the desperate Angels of Porn ("I'd give my body to Satan/ If I could only keep my soul"). Indirectly, she paints the ugly face of the human condition.

The EP Greta Gibson Forever (2015), named after one of the victims of ghost Freddy Krueger in one of the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, contains Lemonade, one of her most intimate lullabies, I Slept With my Uncle on my Wedding Night (a musical adaptation of Virginia Andrews’s short story “I Slept With My Uncle On My Wedding Night”), and the angelic Chapel even showed similarities with the Cowboy Junkies, if they only cleaned up (and indulged in psychological terror).

A few months later she suddenly became a star with Natural Born Losers (2015), when she became the first artist signed to the artists cooperative started by Grimes. The ethereal Mean packs the same kind of mesmerizing dread and ends with an unfinished crescendo. Executioner is drenched in macabre suspense. White Trashing seems to be suspended in medieval time before it becomes a country-pop elegy (not the best of ideas). In the Land toys with psychedelic spacing out, and Alligator Blood glides over a lava of distorted guitar riffs. There is more variety and more "sound", thanks also to producer Matt Tomasi.

Heart Shaped Bed (2018) was a strange hybrid of revisited old songs (Chapel, Uncle, Lemonade, Beautiful & Bad) and new songs (of which only Only Angels Have Wings is worth her canon).

Married in Mount Airy (2023), produced again by Matt Tomasi, marks another move towards a more extroverted experience. Married in Mount Airy is complex enough to evoke Joni Mitchell althouh Gold Satin Dreamer is simple enough to evoke Donovan. The whispered Whispering Glades emanates a bucolic feeling more akin to the 1960s folk revival than to contemporary confessional bedroom-pop. The floating Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus is the purest the album gets, a reminder of where she was (musically speaking) a decade earlier. On the other hand, the guitar and piano work on Runnin' Free signal that she is almost ready for mass consumption.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )