Released a year ago, New York-by-way-of-Norway model, actress, and musician Kaya Wilkins’ second full-length album as Okay Kaya – ‘Watch This Liquid Pour Itself’ – embodies the loneliness, horniness, and morbid hilarity of a generation.
Stream: ‘Watch This Liquid Pour Itself’ – Okay Kaya
The Soundcloud-bred subgenre is the internet generation’s monument to the duality of doing-it-yourself and creative solitude, a soundtrack of adolescent woes at large. Although it is typically generalized as an aesthetic monolith of simplistic electronic melodies, charmingly twee vocals, and basic drum machine beats, bedroom pop remains fertile grounds for artistic accessibility, innovation, and human connection. The intimacy of creating on your own terms in your own room results in a diaristic flow of sound and experience; no matter how often themes such as young love, heartbreak, and anxiety are reiterated, they all feel and sound uniquely personal and relatable. For Kaya Wilkins, known most commonly as Okay Kaya, it is an opportunity to experience herself with emotional fluidity.
Named after a YouTube video about polyethylene glycol, Wilkins’ sophomore album Watch This Liquid Pour Itself is a purging of her past selves and emotions. Drawing inspiration from the comedic and confessional nature of internet culture, she mines humor from ennui and anguish through astute reflection. She likens it to spewing bile in the sense of ancient Greek medicine and the four humors of the body, highlighting the comical, body horror element that often accompanies transparency. Ethereal, sensual, and bluntly hilarious, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself is both a definitive sonic portrayal of the millennial woman and a self-portrait of an artist caught up in the tragicomedy of perpetually coming-of-age.
Approaching bedroom pop in the euphemistic sense, Wilkins is frank and relatable in her sexual anecdotes from the get-go—and they’re not all very sexy. On opener “Baby Little Tween,” she parallels her phallic vices and wonders “What if the pills I take will stop me getting wet?” as she ventures into treating her anxiety. Her voice and the smooth synth tones envelop you as if you have just submerged yourself into a lukewarm pool, initially cold but increasingly warmer and more comforting as you adapt. A forgiving and tender ode to her younger and current self, she admits her human powerlessness and releases herself from her own sense of guilt. Wilkins is just as genuine-yet-biting on thundering “Guttural Sounds,” a breakup song in which she pokes fun at the specificity of idealized, mundane domesticity while asserting the validity of her less-than-glamorous orgasms.
More garishly tongue-in-cheek is “Asexual Wellbeing,” the libido-deficient, Eurodance answer to Rihanna’s “Sex With Me,” driven by a pounding, gloriously cheesy club beat (and the un-sexiness of having a yeast infection). A little Cher a la “Believe” (which she covered in 2019) and a little Sade, she juxtaposes deep, sensual crooning and the campy hypersexuality of the beat with the underwhelming line “I know sex with me is mediocre.” Whether dissecting the nuances of sexuality with explicitly graphic caricature or skillfully layered innuendo, she artfully explores the overlaps of beauty, awkwardness, and trials of intimacy.
Sexual activity aside, it appears that Wilkins best makes sense of all of life through a biological lens. Connected with the natural world but at its whim nonetheless, she winks “The whole world is my daddy” with swaggering self-awareness on the tragically short faux-disco jam “Mother Nature’s Bitch.” She imagines an insular world of codependency, concealed as stability and security, on “Symbiosis,” in which she lives alone with her fungal lover in a petri dish where “there’ll be no more deficiencies; sugars, minerals, everything we need.” She likens love to basic necessities for survival, examining her romantic notions both at a sterilized distance and as complex, all-consuming experiences that can be just as isolating as they can be fulfilling. Revisiting bodily fluids and reproductive health, she sings about bleeding through all of her pajamas in her native tongue on “Helsevesen.” Despite how unglamorous menstruation typically is, her layered vocals resonate like a choir of rejoicing angels as she finds rapture in her femininity, emerging from a depressive episode to find happiness in the routine minutiae that comes with being alive. Whether in tandem or at odds with the world, Wilkins accepts change as the only constant we are guaranteed in this life—in other words, existing is a miraculous blessing just as much as it is a fucked-up joke.
Further venturing into the territory of mental illness and medication, Wilkins rides the line at which vulnerability and dry wit meet and blur into true-to-life paradoxes.
She first mentions liquid on “Ascend and Try Again” as she gives diving instructions that could very well be taken as advice for coping with an anxiety attack. Self-soothing as the song gently swells from sparse fingerpicking to a gracefully soaring chorus, she finds resilience as she repeats the titular mantra. Her velvety voice is warm and reassuring as she reflects on her experiences with institutionalization on stomping, guitar-driven anthem “Psych Ward.” She finds a sense of freedom in the structure of routine and uniformity as she drones on with a new chant: “Do the rounds, do the rounds.” She takes pleasure in the fact that “you can peel an orange however you please” there, despite the arguing, crisis management, and general chaos around her – in fact, she is even comforted by the latter. The solitude and familiarity Wilkins experiences during her stint paints inpatient treatment as a welcome retreat; compared to the information overload she bemoans on previous track “Overstimulated,” the psych ward is peaceful and simple in both its predictable commotions and orderliness.
Wilkins’ inner world translates so authentically on Watch This Liquid Pour Itself in part because, regardless of inside jokes, her specificity creates an impression of universality. Blunt and introspective, her self-deprecation gives way to emotional honesty in varying magnitudes, easing the experience of processing pain, disappointment, fear, and insecurity. Her Nico-esque voice breathes life into the otherworldly ambience, and she channels her yearning with a combination of boldness and levity reminiscent of Roy Orbison. Far-off yet intimately close, it is the sonic equivalent of what I imagine being in a sensory deprivation pod might be like; distant reverberations and delayed repetitions create dissociation and revelation as she learns to coexist with all parts and versions of herself. In confronting contradiction and absurdity, Wilkins comes to terms with her limited agency and relinquishes control. Nihilistic without being cheerless, her very online brand of observational comedy is familiar enough that you may impart whatever meaning you need at any given time; as she mentions early on, “I am how I’m perceived.” It is in this fluid subjectivity that the profundity lays.
Watch This Liquid Pour Itself is available via Jagjaguwar, as is Surviving is the New Living, Wilkins’ second full-length release of 2020.
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