Kaya Wilkins is just like you. Well, sort of. She enjoys Netflix and vegan peanut butter chocolate ice cream; she fights jet lag, experiences yeast infections, and she summons introverts such as myself to her “Zero Interaction Ramen Bar.” All of these facets are wrapped up in Wilkins’ penchant for light, luminous melodies. The Norwegian-born, New York-raised artist is fully realized on Watch This Liquid Pour Itself, her Jagjaguwar debut and second album under the Okay Kaya moniker. Recorded mostly by Wilkins herself, she collaborated with producers Jacob Portrait (Whitney, (Sandy) Alex G) and John Carroll Kirby (Solange, Kali Uchis) in order to further her vision. Inside its 39-minute runtime, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself presents forms of wetness through the lens of oceans, rivers, and ponds. The water in this universe is not of rebirth or revitalization, though, even when Wilkins misleads you so.
“My heart is ponding, my heart is sweat/my heart’s got ducklings swimming in it,” Wilkins croons in “Popcorn Heart,” while she shares her four steps for surviving a panic attack underwater in “Ascend and Try Again.” Although Wilkins has honed masterful deadpan humor and a quick wit, the water in Okay Kaya songs is what comes out in the purge. In spite of that, Watch This Liquid Pour Itself remains luscious and raw. This collection of strange, jazz-influenced songs welcomes us back to the world of Okay Kaya, and trust me; you won’t want to leave.
Watch This Liquid Pour Itself opens with “Baby Little Tween,” an airy, synth-led tune where Wilkins sings, “I used to fight the feeling, always let it win,” now ready to face conquests that once overcame her. The track also sees frank ruminations on whether the antidepressants she takes will stop her getting wet. That identical astuteness can be found in “Mother Nature’s Bitch,” where Wilkins takes a disco jam and declares, “the whole world is my daddy.” Her deep, velvety vocal remains vulnerable through forays into dance-pop, stoner rock, and dreamy R&B.
In “Psych Ward,” perhaps the finest Okay Kaya song yet, Wilkins revisits her personal experience of time spent in a hospital. The track is an exercise in understanding yourself in the midst of trauma, resulting in “this funny bop,” a song she wanted “to feel like a Ramones song or something.” Led by an acoustic guitar before transforming into a full-band indie-rock jam, Wilkins is doing anything but merely making the rounds. Watch This Liquid Pour Itself as a whole is bursting with moments Wilkins is terrified of forgetting, “coming right at you, projectile style.” Wilkins is near ecstatic, humming “I can’t wait to be 30-something” in the epic “Guttural Sounds,” a track that turns Tumblr memes into poetry as she breathes, “if you don’t love me at my guttural sound, you don’t deserve me at my guttural sound.” Oh, and you no longer get to raise the sweetest Italian Greyhound named Stacy together, either.
Wilkins takes things to a heartbreaking level in “Givenupitis” and “Helsevesen.” The former delves into the tragedy of suffering disenchantment with your eroding continent, while the latter is a deeply personal composition delivered in Wilkins’ native Norwegian. Thanks to a Google Translate search (feel free to call me out if the translation is wrong), “Helsevesen” finally sees Wilkins at rest. With revealing lines like, “for the first time in a long time, I go down the stairs and out of my apartment to the laundry/I say with a smile, ‘I’ve been bleeding through all my blue pajamas, is there a chance that you think it goes down the drain?,'” she not only maintains her fixation with water and emotional catharsis, but the entirely Norwegian performance bestows a new layer of fragility onto the individual we recognize as Okay Kaya.
If I’m being completely honest, Wilkins’ stunning vocals, distinctive wit, and the experimental nature of Watch This Liquid Pour Itself takes me back to hearing Mitski’s Puberty 2 for the first time. Wilkins and Mitski are deadly funny and earnest, to the point where it’s no longer shocking hearing Wilkins proclaim, “I know sex with me is mediocre” or “sometimes I rub my ghost dick until I can almost see it.” Likewise, when Mitski juggles her longing for intimacy with the belief that happiness is unsustainable in “I Bet on Losing Dogs.”
Haunting vocals, balancing diverse influences, and instilling dramatic flair in unexpected places are just a couple of things Mitski and Wilkins expertly manage to pull off. Beneath wild instrumentation, bravado, and sex jams, both artists paint unflinching portraits of women trying to navigate an increasingly baffling world. Finding elements reminiscent of Puberty 2 – one of my favorite albums of all time, and once again, having that feeling of wondering where an artist has been all my life is what music is about. And that’s the highest praise I can give any album.