by Tirhakah Love (@GoonTherapy)
It’s not wholly surprising that Bitter’s Kiss’ debut EP, Love Won’t Make You Cry is an intimate narrative-driven first step for the indie pop artist. Her light voice whispers and whimpers melodically around tightly constructed pop chords composed by Baker’s father, Michael. A diary of sorts, the EP finds the New Jersey artist negotiating fantastical childhood ideas of love — both personal and theistic — with real life trauma. Though routinely pop — building on a blueprint laid by Regina Spektor and Lykke Li–the record is held together by the strength of Baker’s vocal delivery and her measured approach to songwriting.
Baker sits on a story-telling stump and reveals a mature narrative style, openly interrogating childhood notions of love. Baker celebrates the disenchantment of single life proudly proclaiming on “No One Will”–‘No on will step out on me/No one will trample over me.’ But that solitude comes with a price as she somberly sings, “No one will ever kiss me/And no one will ever miss me.” The artist excels in making human dualities plain — a quality that makes her music relatable and textured even if a bit predictable. The titular track, “Love Won’t Make You Cry,” a long-running but simple negative definition of what love means, is brimming with naivete only to be betrayed by Baker’s matured melancholy. Intimacy doesn’t just happen laterally; Baker points her criticisms upward on the single, “The Rope.” A heavy hearted tune that unwraps the untimely suicide of her overtly religious friend, “The Rope,” is Baker at her most piercing. She’s scathing — “there’s a quicker way to heaven if you can find the rope” — and is unapologetic in her portrayal of hurt feelings. She deals, rather straightforwardly, with the prospect that the faithfulness theistic love promises is a hoax — one that doesn’t hold up against the realities of the world she’s beginning to enter.
It can be pretty easy to dismiss Bitter’s Kiss’ soft style as contrived, but to do so would reduce the command Baker has on her songs. Her voice can be thin and wavering, but more vocal heft would weigh down the bare acoustics. When she does reach her vocal peak on a song like “My God,” its beside a surprising organ that can handle the dynamism. Baker is helped along by a sauntering guitar chord that crescendoes just as she hastily comments, “we’re sending each other to hell.” The lyrical and sonic juxtaposition is giggle-inducing but the thematic weight of the track wipes the smile quickly from your face.
Chloe Baker’s got a lot more learning to do but she’s proven wiser than the average indie pop startup. Disillusioned and critical, Baker’s stories are sure to grow in depth as her familial and spiritual experiences ebb and flow with time. Love Won’t Make You Cry is a vivid portrayal of childhood expectations traumatically edged out by adulthood realities made more palpable by the wisdom of the storyteller. A great foray into the grownup “unknown” by an artist just taking off the training wheels.
Listen to Bitter’s Kiss EP here