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“DD Review: Bitter’s Kiss – Bitter’s Kiss.”

Score: 5.5/10

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It’s a funny thing about receiving artist bios before diagramming a project like this. Sometimes, as on “The Rope,” it would have been better to embark upon the mission without outside knowledge, because the sort of high-stakes outpouring taking place can really be a revelation — a unique, haunting take on real human failure.
Bitter’s Kiss is the moniker of pop recording nascent Chloe Baker, a Weehawken, NJ crooner with her own father on percussion and engineering. “I live right across the river from Manhattan and feel that it absolutely influences my approach,” comments Baker. “So many songwriters from this area have used their songs to paint honest pictures of what they observe, and I also feel like an observer.” The college-aged Baker is seasoned beyond her years in dealing with loss as well, though, [1], stricken with the tragic parting of a cousin, and thereby inspired toward “The Rope.” This isn’t a girl making music out of boredom, or some driven toward some aesthetic like “rocking.” Right away, album opener “Bitter’s Kiss” exudes unmistakeable genuineness; purpose feeds the proceedings. Her vocals mimic the coy, melodic surety of LA electro-pop ringer Mr. Little Jeans.
Unfortunately, rich casualness should be Baker’s modus operandi, and the “next level” to which she takes pitch in the chorus is a regrettable one. Baker’s voice is beautiful, that’s the only way to put it — but the human, emotive qualities are already in full supply in alto range, and her attempted forays into the soprano are unbecoming. Thankfully this is only a problem on track one.
“No One Will” settles into a melancholy, behooving deliberation where earlier the consistency of positive outcry over conventional structure smoothes things into a deadened pattern. Professionally and proficiently done, the mood of “No One Will” would be rendered like “DsharpG” of Baker’s east coast sister-in-melody Sharon Van Etten — a refreshingly painful halter, like claws on a chalkboard when that’s what you really need. Baker’s lyrics also are at their maturest and most layered here, juxtaposing fearsome loneliness with eternal surety, and framing them together within the same basic repeated vocal.
Beginning side B is “The Rope,” which opens ceremoniously with the foreboding somberness of footsteps, tape grot and soft fanfare. One particular favorite lyric is “Staring into the preacher’s eyes for the soul behind the face,” which garners a New York feel, like Interpol referencing the “cadaverous mob” and the search for meaning and stability within sprawling populace. As on a few of these songs, like this one and the wistful “Already Gone,” the Baker duo finds its bearing in a sort of nondescript, unexplainable and fleeting joy, the failures coming with the likes of “Lovin’ Life,” a deliberate attempt at forging systematic joy, collapsing under its own weight for youthful lack of substance.
The same problem plagues closeur “Too Far Too Fast”: it’s the SKELETON of a good song, one of Anthony Baker’s signature faux-quirky drum beats competently kicking things off, only to bare lyrics that sound generic: “Too far too fast to fall / Get back up and slowly you’ll learn.” Not quite a bad tune, it does however sound very much the result of a musical project done with a father, and a little outside lyrical input might have granted it some much-needed weight.
A couple other trouble points are, in order, failure of the vocals to marry lyrical conception and artistic conception, and the album’s tendency to sound like unfinished product, attempting to emphasize banal guitar parts, every bit the hobbyist’s basement project. Actually, Baker is a very eloquent speaker, evidenced by her e-mail response to my questions, but at times I wish her musical delivery were a little more fluid and natural, less a product of left-brain thought process.
More teddy bear than tigress at this point, Chloe Baker is an inimitable vocalist capable of grafting some fun and charming background cafe music, thought at certain moments porcelain and elementary, under a more microscopic lens.
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[1] Lou Reed once said “In every situation, there’s a little bit of magic, and a little bit of loss, just to even things out.” Baker is a fan of Reed’s.

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