Album Review: Okay Kaya- The Incompatible Okay Kaya

Elena Corcobado questions the covers and re-recordings that make up Okay Kaya's latest ablum

Elena Corcobado
2nd November 2021
The Incompatible Okay Kaya gives us Okay Kaya’s most stripped-down project. An art-pop, indie singer-songwriter sound, the record accomplishes the most minimal production, highlighting an intimate, honest, and at times bizarre, songwriting. Made up of 9 songs, the album touches on topics such as love, religion, mental health, and loneliness. 

Five of these songs are re-interpretations of former songs from her repertoire, into a more raw and minimalistic sound. This does not do the songs any good. Okay Kaya’s weird, art-pop persona fits with the original production of the tracks: still lofi, but more sonically expressive by incorporating broader instrumentation like percussion, bass, and other electronic elements; a more elaborated production that adds ambience and dynamics. Without these elements, and reducing the songs to under-produced guitars and vocals, the songs fall flat.

Her vocals remain soft, at times sharp, but always gentle throughout the album. The chord progressions and harmony are not necessarily simple within a single song context, but repetitive and unoriginal to the ear after following similar structures and achieving an identical sound throughout the record. The album lacks dynamics: short songs that break with conventional pop song structures, lack of hooks and instrumental ambience, and absence of songs with a strong sonic identity. I didn’t find myself emotionally engaged with the record.

This commitment to a stripped-down, minimalistic sound, shifts the focus to her songwriting and vocal delivery and lets it shine. ‘Zero Interaction Ramen Bar - cover version’ draws us into Okay Kaya’s peculiar world through a fine use of imagery, in which she’s an outsider to the environment around her, a mere spectator of her life. ‘Calendar Girl - cover version’ captures the zeitgeist of contemporary adult life, where the most exciting part of the day is completing ‘to-do’ lists.

‘Book of Love’s writing brings another thematic layer into the album, where she criticizes modern love while not being able to defy it when it comes. Here we see a more vulnerable and personal Kaya. ‘Dance Like U - cover version’ was my least liked song on the record, as I found it fairly uninspiring and empty. The original production of this song considerably enhances the songwriting, making it more interesting, dynamic, and engaging.

‘Into My Arms’ was my favourite song, where we encounter more melodic songwriting. It’s romantic and raw: her lack of spiritual faith is questioned by her desire to be romantically reciprocated. It works. ‘Psych Ward - cover version’ and ‘Without Her’ touch on mental health, loneliness, and seemingly death, in a poetic yet ordinary way, which polishes her writing. ‘Fake It - cover version’ is the most bizarre point of the album, but I found it funny and playful.

In this record, it truly feels like Okay Kaya is in your room, with a guitar and small amp, singing about existential dread just for you on a rainy winter evening. It’s simple, yet intimate. I would have wanted to hear a more elaborated production that added a clearer identity into each song and dynamics into the whole project. But I can appreciate the intent of the sound achieved and its appeal to those who want to feel like the artist is just there, sitting on the floor next to them, not trying too hard.

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