I will never forget the time between 2013 and 2015, for better or worse, and many of the musical discoveries made during that time that would change my life and listening experiences forever. Lots of turmoil was plaguing my personal life, but one particular thing I remember was both losing and later regaining contact with a close friend. It wasn’t because of a falling out or anything like that, they essentially just fell off the face of the earth due to some fairly awful things going on in their own life. Nonetheless, I have them to thank for my discovery of none other than Nicole Dollanganger.

I recall a big part of our friendship involving music we’d find and share with each other, and I remember this friend sending me two particular artists around 2015 who were making big moves at the time – Grimes and Nicole Dollanganger. This friend had sent an image of an early carnation of Nicole’s live 3-piece band, claiming the members all looked like us (myself, them, and another mutual close friend) hanging out; It was almost uncanny in resemblance at the time. Despite their recommendation of checking her music out, I never quite gave Nicole the time of day I wanted to up until shortly after that, sometime in the middle of 2015. But as soon as I heard songs like “Alligator Blood”, saw the video for “Angels of Porn II”, and began closely following her Instagram and (admittedly) Tumblr posts…the rest, as they say, was history.

Nicole Dollanganger presented music that was much unlike anything I’d heard before. I dare say I’d have even predicted myself going out of my way to listen to anything like it around that time, not because I thought it was bad or anything, just because of how preoccupied I still was with death metal, hardcore punk, noise, grindcore, avant-garde, math rock, black metal, and just generally weird, borderline-pretentious music; The stranger it was, the more likely I was listening to it. Sure, I’d have my EDM, shoegaze, pop, or otherwise alternative bands work their way into the mix, I definitely had my versatility and lots of oldies that were in rotation, but ultimately the aforementioned was at the forefront.

Nicole quickly became a part of that forefront. The more I listened, interpreted her lyrics, and just immersed the way I always have with artists I find, and especially when I’m hooked on them, the more I found myself connected to her work. Primarily the material of Observatory Mansions, Natural Born Losers, and Ode to Dawn Wiener: Embarrassing Love Songs were bumped in the whip as you might have heard youngians once say. But much of my adoration was focused on Natural Born Losers.

So let’s talk some Dollanganger history, shall we? Nicole is a Toronto, Canada native of the Scarborough district, but grew up between Whitchurch-Stoufville, Ontario and Florida, USA. Inspired by American country musicians shared of her father’s listening habits, she found herself enamored with the works of artists such as Bobbie Gentry and Tammy Wynette – of whom she would later reference in part of her lyrics to the Heart Shaped Bed track, “Tammy Faye”.

It is truly something special to me to have caught wind of Nicole’s music between 2013 and 2014, because this was actually about the time she was just beginning to actually write and semi-publicly (it wasn’t a totally if-you-know-you-know type of basis, but mainly followers of her Tumblr would be the first to learn of her music) release music. Her first self-release being a totally bedroom-produced (or bathroom, depending on which space she’d use for acoustics), Curdled Milk would see the light of day in July 13th, 2012.

Sadly, she would fall ill shortly after this release to severe cases of anorexia, nervosa, and other issues plaguing her day to day life. The condition would put her on a prolonged bed rest for a year, and during this time she would drop from her studies at Ryerson University and begins writing and recording much more music, which would culminate into Flowers of Flesh and Blood, Ode to Dawn Wiener: Embarrassing Love Songs, and later on in 2014, the Edward Carey novel inspired Observatory Mansions. Speaking on the days during and after Curdled Milk’s conception, Wikipedia cites her saying this of her life at the time:

‘Curdled Milk’s creation coincided with an illness I was battling, and right after I released it, I went on bed rest for a year & completely shut the world out. I could probably count on my hands how many times I left the house throughout that year, actually. And after that period, I was a completely different person. Everything in my life had changed and I think for the first time I kind of came into myself. In that regard, I feel I have changed a lot.

Needless to say, Nicole exhibited some of the heaviest levels of DIY musicianship yet, even going as far as to hand-make her own cassette tape and CD copies of all four of her first records. So by the time 2015 rolled around and she had her opening slot at a show headlined by Lana Del Rey and Grimes, it was no question she was deserving of both the recognition and opportunities that would come about in response to her hard work. Grimes, being a huge and early fan as well as friend of Nicole, would also announce her own self-made label Eerie Organization, which was started in part to help release Nicole’s Natural Born Losers, claiming via an article with Complex, ‘It’s a crime against humanity for this music not to be heard’.

If there were never a statement I would ever agree with Grimes on ever again, that at least would absolutely be one I always will agree with. Nicole’s sonic exploration, to me, goes beyond the simple tropes of just bedroom lofi rock and pop. Her later releases past Natural Born Losers would give us a much higher production value, too, but even in her earliest songs, there’s a unique flavor to what Nicole crafted that I believe stuck out and cut through the noise. The mixing of distorted, humming, noisy, muffled guitars alongside cleaner tones in “Alligator Blood” always hit something specific with my nervous system.

All across Natural Born Losers, and especially in songs such as “In The Land”, “Executioner”, and “White Trashing”, it’s as if she took the archaic, odd, juxtaposed beauty of abandoned buildings reclaimed by foliage and natural formations and converted it into audio. A possession of decadent and derelict soundscapes paved with ethereal, flower-blooming-beautiful embellishments, be them vocally or instrumentally, she absolutely embodied a modern Southern Gothic, yet almost industrial and electronic sound. Each track has a story to tell, with “Executioner” being about facing an inevitable penance despite even the best of intentions, “Alligator Blood” loosely being about life in Florida, and “American Tradition” talking about two struggling and troubled lovers, each piece of lyrics covers something a bit more hard hitting from track to track. The result, to my ears, has always remained unforgettable.

After she released Natural Born Losers, it was all uphill from there. She’d go on to be featured in the title track of Full of Hell’s Trumpeting Ecstasy release, tour with Elvis Depressedly and Teen Suicide in 2016 (where I first got to witness her and her band live as well as meet them and some other lifelong friends), toured with Code Orange on select dates of their New Reality tour, and accomplish collaboration with artists such as 100 gecs. She would also release Heart Shaped Bed in 2018, which only further helped put her on the radar of a wider audience. While her song “Chapel” would be released as an updated version on Heart Shaped Bed, an earlier version of it would find placement in the “Twice as Far” episode of The Walking Dead series. Everything was lining up nicely for Nicole to see what is probably some of the highest successes of an artist with such DIY and humble roots; From Tumblr to stardom if you will, although this could also be applied to Grimes in a sense as well.

Beyond the admiration I have for Nicole’s work ethic and how she is living proof that making it for a hardworking artist is always possible, I have a close place in my heart for the people who have both worked with her or been correlated to her in some way. The amount of connections, things I’ve learned of, and just general happenings both in my life and that I’ve seen with others in the realm of her following in general is a shine of uniqueness. For instance, her former guitarist and close friend Matthew Tomasi, who also played a big part in helping produce her music as well as perform it live, has been a massive inspiration to me on a number of levels, and I’ve even had small conversations with him on a couple of occasions.

Beyond Matt’s work with Nicole, he’s gone on to perform with and release music under incredible acts such as Friction, Real World, 9Million, Acid Priest, and more. He’s also had a hand in production work for Nicole-inspired, immensely talented ethereal artist Ethel Cain, whose work I also tremendously admire, and who also rose to wide recognition from humble beginnings. Another member of her live act as well as a contributor to her studio recordings is Scott Downes, who performs under Thirty Cent Fare and the Toronto shoegazers Bliss Fields. It is also through Nicole that I discovered the bedroom pop singer/songwriter Infinity Crush, who I’ve come to also closely follow the work of.

Needless to say, this sort of network, intentional or not, of musical discovery, connection, and just artists who all bust their asses to bring genuine, emotional, unapologetic songwriting and works of expression to the table is something that I forever cherish about each of them. It is few artists, if any, that hold this sort of shaping to my life in such a way that I feel part of my epiphanies, enlightenments, best memories, or even significant changes in it could be, in some way, credited to them or their music. Sure, there was a wave of people saying ‘this band saved my life!!!’ about someone they discovered on Tumblr for some time, and that’s not exactly what I’m even saying here. But, speaking in earnest, I don’t think some of the inspirations, connections, ideas, friendships, or events I made, endured, or found myself involved in, for better or worse, would have ever happened without Nicole serving as that sort of catalyst, as well as subsequently those involved with her or that I discovered thereafter because of her.

I don’t want to steer this WFA away from its central subject too much – which is Nicole Dollanganger herself. But, I will say that had it not been for her music and the connections made through that, I’d never have had the opportunity to play the Beat Kitchen venue in Chicago, IL in 2019, opening for Nicole and Infinity Crush on the tour they were performing at the time, playing guitar alongside the Ethel Cain. Each time I listen to any of those three’s music, I think back to that night and how high I felt for even that brief moment. No, this is not to put a spotlight on me at all, this is to say that the deep ties you have with art and the things you feel passionate about will always be the most important pieces of your life, whether you realize it immediately or later.

All the above said, I believe that is, to some effect or another, what makes Nicole’s music so special and keeps perhaps a community of sorts that came about through what she first gifted the world between 2010-2014 so closely bonded. The immersive aura of passion, mutual feelings, and just a shared tear dropped from every eye in the room as we relate our experiences, beautiful and horrific, to what Nicole soundtracks this pseudo wake of sorts. Given some of her live setups as far as props, perhaps the funeral comparison isn’t too far off, I promise I mean this in the best way possible though. Nicole’s live act is like a congregation of hurt souls getting their annual healing in to help carry them through another year or two, and even if much of her listeners these days don’t see it as that dramatic, I have witnessed that sort of magic about it more than a few times now, and it doesn’t appear to have withered one bit.

Nicole Dollanganger has recently, as of January of this year, released Married in Mount Airy. It is by far some of her best work yet, in my opinion, and only proves how far along she’s come and how fine-tuned her work has been with each release. The fact that every release she’s done has been independently, aside from reissues of Observatory Mansions and Ode to Dawn Wiener, as well as apparel available from Run For Cover Records, just goes to reflect how bold the spirit of Nicole’s music and character will always be. I don’t expect any arrangement of words or sentences will ever fully express what I see in Nicole’s work, or perhaps even totally convince you, the reader, to buy every album she’s released and listen to it nonstop, perhaps all of this is even just unique to my perception. But, what I do hope is that this has inspired you to give her music an honest try, but I am certain that you can at least respect and appreciate the intimacy within what I and her other fans garner from the sincerity of it.

Nicole Dollanganger is…you guessed it…

Nicole Dollanganger – vocals, guitars, electronics, etc.

At any rate, be sure to follow Nicole Dollanganger via her Facebook, Instagram, website, and Bandcamp! Give yourself a healthy dose of calming and unsettling as you walk down the windy, haunted dirt roads of her beautifully decadent soundscapes, fully injecting the ethereal, somber intoxication of the music’s atmosphere into your nervous system. Be careful, you may find yourself fully embedded in a musical rabbit hole of true crime references, southern gothic lullabies, and alluring jingles of awkward love stories. Listen at your own risk.



Easygoing weirdo with a love for life, music, art, culture, outdoors, meeting new people, seeing new places, and trying new things. Oh yeah, and I guess I never shut up about the things I love, too. That’s a quality!

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