By Stephen Dunegan
Before we delve into this album review, I must confess that I’m a sucker for female vocalists, from Kimbra to Dresses to Regina Spektor to Lykke Li to Rilo Kiley. I love the dynamics and the haunting nature female vocalist/lyricists provide. Bitter’s Kiss is no exception.
This album is a mature offering from someone who I, based off the cover art alone, thought may be the soundtrack to a dystopian Hollister storefront. To my surprise, the lyrics are as haunting and raw as I’d expect from a seasoned singer-songwriter. When you first take a listen, her voice seems frail and timid but then you hear the blooming audio scenescapes and then all of a sudden you realize you’re listening to a wise observant young lady.
Bitter’s Kiss is the honest offering from New Jersey native Chloe Baker (while being musically backed by her father Michael Baker) and based off the goal of “creating music that gets away from teen pop and conveys a deeper meaning;” a deeper meaning that evidently bridges age gaps and genre specifics.
Her opening tracks “Bitter’s Kiss” and “Waste of it All” could easily be a combined and intertwined song as they detail the bouts of a failed relationship and the personal condemnation that comes when you realize that you don’t have the strength to walk away from something that you don’t see working long-term and in the end are the one being left behind.
The lyrics to “Love Won’t Make You Cry” seem to resonate in an almost hymnal-esque manner: “Love won’t tear you down; call you names // Or laugh at your pain // Love won’t sacrifice your hopes and dreams // For heartache and shame.” It’s as if she seems to modernize scripture (Corinthians 13:4) but judging on the track “The Rope” that follows, she’s not much for faith or religion in general.
A subject matter that may seem less likely to be relatable in wider spectrum but something we have either struggled with, continue to wrestle with or agree/disagree on. The way she paints the picture in this track is very, very eerie. She uses this song as a medium for therapy and a coping mechanism from which she expresses unease with humanity’s reliance on prayers and faith as she tackles both religious speculation and teenage suicide in one fell swoop: “I have sat through your church service // Listening for a word I could embrace // Staring into the preacher’s eyes // Searching for the soul behind the face // Do your angels keep you waiting? // How much longer can you cope? // There’s a quicker way to heaven // If you can find yourself a rope”
Quickly the mood changes unexpectedly with “Lovin’ Life” which is probably for the better. This electro-infused track seems to be used to show us her versatility and that not all is gray, gloomy and solemn. That life is the ebb and flow of emotions. Sometimes it’s heavy and sometimes things just couldn’t get any better. Such is the beauty of existence some would argue. She continues the upswing with “Already Gone” until she reaches the album’s closing song which describes her older sister going to college. It has such an eclectic ambiance which forces her vocals to once again seep through to the deepest parts of life; parts of life I’m surprised can be conveyed by someone so youthful.
This album really, really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to like the album let alone love it. It’s such a beautiful piecework from someone who has years and years to offer the music community. I’m excited to see what else she offers us in the future. To say I recommend this album is an understatement.