bitter’s kiss is the self-titled new EP by New Jersey’s Chloe Baker (vocals, guitar, and piano), with help from her father Michael Baker (guitar, piano, bass, and drums). Released at the end of March of this year, the EP is a pleasant find, the kind of which keeps music lovers combing the Internet for more.
The themes covered will no doubt strike a nerve in listeners struggling with tough issues, be it depression, suicide, or the dreary melancholic repetitiveness of suburban life. One can’t help but wonder if the level of introspectiveness, something so sorely lacking in a large number of mainstream songs, is a reflection of the strength of the relationship binding the daughter and the father and their dedication to craft music that speaks to an artist’s innate power and every listener’s humanity. It also helps that Chloe Baker’s voice is bright, yet not quite crystalline because of an underlying smokiness that gives it a certain mature edge.
The EP opens with the title track, a mid-tempo ballad driven mostly by an electric guitar and supported with piano and a subtle drum line. The track does well in introducing listeners to Chloe Baker’s high, polished, and clear vocals that touch on the confusion of dealing with a lover whose commitment runs hot and then cold. Instead of delving into a more typical, black-and-white, he’s-evil-and-I’m-fed-up territory, the song addresses the very real and sometimes contradictory feelings of enchantment and frustration of such a situation.
Despite the optimism of that track, we understand in the following “Waste of It All” that Chloe isn’t a hopeless romantic as she deals with the aftermath of a failed relationship, which includes regret at not having had the strength to walk away earlier. Perhaps in light of these experiences, she explores what being in love might or might not be in “Love Won’t Make You Cry”: “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/Love won’t beat you/Or burn you/Or hang you out to dry/Love won’t make you cry.”
The three first tracks of this EP are more powerful together than separate. While the struggle defining some relationships doesn’t necessarily mean that it is bound to end—reflected in the realistic optimism of “Bitter’s Kiss”—some are just not meant to be and become a source of learning on what else we could have done, such as in “Waste of It All”. But ultimately, all relationships teach us lessons about love, such as the ones described in “Love Won’t Make You Cry”. The lessons are as simple as the stripped nature of the song.
Of course one can’t expect that negative experiences won’t affect us, and we see their effect on Chloe in “No One Will”, where she seems almost cynical. Interestingly enough, the pessimistic lyrics are set within a bright, up-tempo, cheerful melody, as if she recognizes that the way she feels is temporary, set within the context of a bright future filled with possibilities.
While bitter’s kiss is quite mature in its understanding of love, there still remains some work to be done in understanding the relationship between humans and faith. “The Rope” was apparently written after the young singer lost a distant cousin from a different religious background to suicide and comes off as an attack on said religion. “Do your angels keep you waiting/How much longer can you cope,” she asks, before suggesting that “There’s a quicker way to Heaven/If you can find yourself a rope.” It feels like there is a lack of understanding of the meaning of real faith, distilling its related actions into meaningless ones done only to please God and go to heaven.
Ironically enough perhaps, seeing the depth of understanding about the topic reflected in the previous track, there is also a lack of understanding about the concept of love of God that has the vocalist ask: “Who are you trying to impress when you pray/Do you fear you’ll be critiqued by God/How many things can go on in a day/That you stay on your knees so long”. While everyone has the right to their own understanding of God, religion, and faith, this tune might prove too much for those who love God and devoted believers of His Manifestations.
The sharp contrast between “The Rope” and the electronic, cheerful mid-tempo “Lovin’ Life” makes the transition quite jarring to say the least. The Bakers kept the melody quite simple and it doesn’t either overpower the vocals or force Chloe to change her singing style. The song is meant to be uplifting and calls for an acceptance of life’s tests and difficulties. That it might come as the answer to “The Rope”—which would explain its placement on the EP—makes me quite uncomfortable, seeing the treatment of religious belief in the prior track, and the importance of strengthening our spiritual side in our quest for true joy.
The combination of well-written and thoughtful lyrics, impeccable production, and vocals both beautiful and well trained, bitter’s kiss is an eight track emotional journey that flips between the darker and lighter side of our lives. Chloe Baker’s somewhat smoky voice as well as the melodies in many of the tracks give the EP a bit of a jazz lounge influence in which one would settle into to listen to the story she has to share. But this release loses its steam with tracks sometimes erring a little too much on the despairing side and the treatment of the topic of religion and faith. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the artist is available on her official website.