Many children chronicle their formative years in some capacity. Some people write in their diary, others go about a similar practice simply referring to the collection of their daily expressions as a ‘journal’. For American singer songwriter Chloe Grace Baker the preferred medium in the purging and sorting of her thoughts is music. Having 24 hour access to her father’s recording studio at home makes the act of sifting through the fears that come with adolescence and musing about what lies ahead through the mechanics of music much more conducive to practicality.
At just 16 years of age it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear maturity in her voice well beyond her years. On her debut EP Love Won’t Make You Cry, Baker embodies many of the aspects of growing up that we all had to broach at one point or another. On her album Baker questions the confusion that come with the premature loss of a relative (“The Rope”), feelings of despair, longing, and the human desire to love and be loved.
The running theme of finding hope through pain, or as she put it to me, finding ‘something of value, even in sadness or hard times’ is prevalent in the life of the North Bergen, New Jersey native, thus is common throughout the entire Love Won’t Make You Cry EP.
On “Lovin Life” Baker addresses the theme of extracting lessons learned when one falls down as she carefully articulates the fragility that makes up her day to day happiness.
It is with that very sentiment of extracting value during darker times that Baker came up with her Soundcloud username, and subsequently her stage name Bitter’s Kiss.
The first Bitter’s Kiss song I was exposed to “Already Gone” had such a haunting quality to Baker’s vocal texture and inflection that it immediately drew sonic similarities to a young Cat Power. The evocative vocals of “Already Gone” is thankfully prevalent throughout the eight track EP, but especially so on the album’s second track “Waste of it All”. Though one could never match the adulation that Chan Marshall deservedly elicits in just one release, Bitter’s Kiss’ Love Won’t Make You Cry has already drawn considerable acclaim from critics.
The assumption that nobody will ever understand us is a right of passage that we have all experienced in one form or another. On “No One Will”, Baker details the solitude felt during the first two decades on this planet and the heartache that comes with feeling like nobody gets you. For the most part Baker’s writing and vocal delivery show few signs of her short stay on this large rock jetting through infinity. However, on both “No One Will” and “Bitter’s Kiss”, Baker’s voice does struggle at times. The young talent sounds burdened to hit some of the higher tones at times, and while to her credit she gets there, difficulty maintaining them can be pitchy; perhaps a product of the soft but beautiful rasp she and Scarlett Johansson share. (Side note: I recommend Anywhere I Lay My Head, the actress / singer performs 10 Tom Waits songs and one original.)
Baker’s range will no doubt be addressed moving forward as it will only enhance the giant head start in music that she is already afforded.
With an eight track EP under her belt, the student of High Tech Arts Academy has the inroads to a very successful future. With Baker having pedigree and a studio at her disposal, both courtesy of dad, as well as having a creative propensity to compliment a beautiful soul-revealing voice, success is imminent. Baker’s most advantageous quality by all counts may be that quite simply that she is just compelled to make music; as if no choice was ever made.
Drawing comparisons lyrically to Canada’s Feist on tracks like “Already Gone” and “No One Will”, Bitter’s Kiss evokes a cultivated sensibility and just seems to get ‘it’.
Constantly self-improving, Baker is no doubt already working on the highly navigable matter of vocal range. Occasional lyrical aspects like “No One Will”, show signs of a song written by a then 15 year old are both necessary for one’s process and simply require time and experience to naturally evolve.
Baker may wonder why so often people around her mention experience as a tool vital in her growth musically, and why other artists her age don’t hear the same frequency of references regarding maturation. As a in feather her cap she need only recognize that unfeigned and sophisticated music she is already proficiently executing is not bubblegum pop, therefore held to a different standard. Whether she achieves it as Bitter’s Kiss or Chloe Grace Baker the road looks bright for the Sarah McLachlan inspired musician; assuming it’s not “Too Far Too Fast”. Perhaps if High Tech has a accredited exchange program, McLachlan would consider Baker as an educator for a semester here in Vancouver. While she may never project over the hilltops like Florence and the Machine’s Florence Welch (and who can?), Chloe Grace Baker has all the tools in the shed to be a household name by graduation day.