by Molly Larson
The Incompatible Okay Kaya is the fourth album Kaya Wilkins has released under her stage name, Okay Kaya. In her Spotify description, Wilkins describes herself as “Singer-crywanker, Maker of Smut pop, Kind of like seasoning, A little someone for anything, Meme approved, Bottom.” The tone of this description encapsulates the tender and intimate, yet ironic and detached feelings of Okay Kaya’s music.
The Incompatible Okay Kaya consists of nine tracks, five of which are cover versions of songs from her previous albums. The instrumentation of the album is very sparse; most tracks are only vocals and one instrument. She created the album as a way to reconnect with her listeners. This desire for connection reverberates throughout the tracks, which are saturated with raw and tender emotion. Wilkins’ vocals provide the perfect vessel for these sentiments. She displays great range with an especially powerful control of lower octaves, and the timbre of her voice is warm, yet fragile; these components combine to make something profoundly special.
The atmosphere of the album is haunting at times – the songs are slow and emotional, with few additional elements to pull the listeners away from the intimate vocals. The cover songs are stripped versions of previously released tracks, while the originals feature faster, fuller instrumentation with more pop and rock production. The covers are starkly different from their originals, but not necessarily better. Wilkins definitely succeeds in her goal of creating deep connection and conveying deep emotions. However, the original tracks provide much more variation for the listeners to enjoy and hold onto – and frankly, more fun. The original release of “Psych Ward” featured an upbeat rock sound that played well with the flippant, ironic tone of the lyrics; “I am a very patient patient waiting / Everybody argues an awful lot in the psych ward.” The haunting tone of the cover version muddles this irony, leaving the listener feeling unnerved.
The dynamic, emotional fluctuation of “Without Her” makes it the standout track of the album. The tone begins tender and bittersweet, then shifts only for a moment to wistful happiness before her voice finally breaks and is overcome by sadness. The listener is drawn into this moment, but the track soon ends, leaving them to grapple with the same loneliness Wilkins explores in the song.
Wilkins demonstrates an effortless control of poignant emotions that is paralleled by few other artists. The Incompatible Okay Kaya is a powerful, intimate album that connects her deeply to listeners. However, the stripped cover versions of her songs are unlikely to overtake their more developed originals. If a listener is ready to feel vulnerable, this album is the perfect soundtrack for the loneliness and longing that seasonal depression may bring.