“Nightswimming” was the fifth single from R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People. Uncharacteristic for both the album and the band as a whole, it’s just bassist Michael Mills on piano and Michael Stipe singing, backed by an orchestra. Stipe’s lyric is one of his simplest and most overt – unless you read what he says the song is really about, and then maybe it isn’t. Regardless of the lyric, the song is about as simple and straight-forward as REM ever got.
Okay Kaya is a Norwegian-American singer-songwriter whose appeared on Cover Me a few times in the last year. On her new cover of “Nightswimming,” recorded for Jagjaguwar’s upcoming Join the Ritual, Kaya completely abandons the piano melody. And she also dramatically alters the vocal melody. Instead, there’s Kaya’s multi-tracked voice and an ever-increasing assortment of keyboards and other gently distorted musical sounds. The aesthetic is very bedroom, as opposed to the orchestral vibe of the original. The vibe has changed, and it feels as though Kaya is telling a different story than Stipe was in the original. But there’s still the sense that you are hearing a very personal story, intended only for you.