Nina Baker: Quite Frankly (Album Review)

Nina Baker’s distinctive vocals, wrap around the heart of ‘Quite Frankly’, her new record. It’s an album that conveys heartache and immense self-exploration. Baker redolently captures the style of 90’s pop, with its spirited navigation of life’s central themes, by crafting a record that doesn’t stay complacent in its study of one particular element.

Beginning the album is “Single Bed” a free-wheeling and feisty, send-off to a relationship with the cheeky lyric “I don’t need you in my single bed”, it’s a whimsical farewell. Next is “Bruising” an emotive, breaking-up song that centers on a relationship reaching its demise, when it becomes clear that a third party has entered the picture. Baker effectively paints the portrait of a trusting lover whose pain over the deceit of their paramour, rivals the bitter ramifications that come from the end of their love affair. 

A stripped down piano ballad, “Breaking Every Rule” permits Baker’s ethereal vocals to take center stage, providing a looming and melancholic trip down life’s dissolution boulevard. The cascade of enriched instrumentation towards the latter part of the song allows it to soar.

“When I’m Not with You” picks up from the emotional baggage left by the previous song, seamlessly blending into the theme of “Breaking Every Rule”, by sorting out the emotional outcome of a life without the person being moved on from. An uplifting ditty with jazzy flair, “Little Fibs” is a flapper-era throwback with a beat of sentimentality.

The psychedelic, “Tell Me” is a call-out to a misbehaving flame that captivates the mind with strong synergy and guitar-fueled rhythm. “Clown” is grounded by an enchanting piano melody that adorns a lyrical expression of loneliness.

Baker evokes brainy imagery by comparing her isolation to that of a clown with the lyric “I’m lonely as a clown”. A clown is made-up to look happy and despite the true emotions of the person underneath, the mask remains the same.

Baker likening herself to such a creature is thought provoking, a possible illusion to the faux presentation that people must implore to conceal a state of mind; simmering beneath the surface. 

Following is “The Price That I Pay”. This blurry ballad features a surge of powerful energy, an exploration of the despair that sometimes comes with the cost of working for a better life. “What’s It All About” keeps listeners on their toes as the music swirls with intense questions for the universe. Baker eloquently confronts a womanizer for his skirt chasing tactics in “Game You Play”. She sticks up for his inevitable victims by cutting him off at the pass and uses a rich instrumentation to do so, including a spunky horn section.

“Tied Up in You” is the wistful rumination of a soul that can’t quite move on from a lover, lodged in the heartstrings and memory banks. There is an especially lovely musical refrain in the latter portion that elevates its appeal. “Stupid Mistake” is another disciplinary measure that attempts to hold a wayward paramour accountable for his questionable behavior, by putting him on notice.

Baker utilizes sweeping melodies with an array of diverse instrumentation in this dizzyingly bold, number. Ending the album is the tender ballad “Falling”, the meditation of a broken heart trying to sever the cycle of a relationship that’s official conclusion hasn’t put an end to the longing.

On ‘Quite Frankly’, there are love songs and loved songs. In what would normally be categorized as break-up songs, Baker sets hers apart by not using juvenile insults to cushion the music's lyrical content. She instead, focuses on the why and in that quest, finds some comfort in how to emerge anew. Here Baker strikes on something that is quite frankly, charmingly endearing.

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