Release Date: May 13, 2016
Record label: Epic
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance, EDM
Foregoing the big drops and unrelenting hammer beats of festival EDM on his debut album Cloud Nine, Norwegian pianist and producer Kygo (born Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll) crafted relaxed, melodic pop-hook house aimed at secluded beaches, nocturnal haunts, and even romantic rendezvous. Boasting a full roster of guest vocalists, Cloud Nine is music for the lounge, not the club, and the soundtrack to the post-party comedown. As the title suggests, this collection is pleasurable and light, lifting listeners to that eponymous place in the heavens.
The winkingly named genre "tropical house" was the sound of dance music in the summer 2015 – a languid pool party fantasia of vaguely Caribbean percussion, chirpy digital panpipes and a permanent license to chill. But while the Felix Jaehn remix to Omi's "Cheerleader" and Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean" lazily kicked up their feet atop the Hot 100, 23-year-old Norwegian sensation Kygo was working up a real sweat bringing his tropical house party the IRL suntans to Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Coachella. His music is formulaic – a dreamy mid-tempo thump, a synth line, some dramatic Moby-ish piano playing – but the formula has garnered him more than half a million downloads and more than 340 million YouTube views for monster singles like "Firestone" and "Stole the Show" His debut album, Cloud Nine, is naturally very same-y – deep house wasting away in Margaritaville – but unfailingly gorgeous.
Norwegian producer Kygo has accrued more than a billion streams on Spotify ahead of his debut LP, partly via irresistible banger Firestone – the urtext for tropical house. This success has secured a lobotomised brains trust of neo-MOR singers, weaving grimly competent songwriting through Kygo’s catchy backings, where flutes and pianos form neatly resolving ringtones. Tom Odell gives Fiction some bright falsetto, but is torpedoed by a ghastly honky-tonk melody ripped from Avicii’s playbook; John Legend should be ashamed of Happy Birthday, which sounds like it was commissioned for the sweet 16 of a kleptocrat’s daughter.
Several other tracks stand out – Foxes has fun belting out the [a]Sia[/a]-penned anthem ‘Oasis’, and the Labrinth-led ‘Fragile’ is a bombastic slab of soulful electronica. But perhaps inevitably, Kygo’s relatively restrained sound becomes repetitive over a 55-minute running time. Too many tracks build slowly towards a reasonably uplifting instrumental break without quite becoming full-on bangers.
Norwegian DJ/producer Kygo rose to fame remixing tracks by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, and James Blake and imbuing them with a melodic island vibe. Cloud Nine is his first album of original productions, and while it has some promising moments of artistic growth, it lacks the sheer catchiness of his remix work. Thanks to a strong background on the piano, Kygo actually has a sharper ear for melodies than most electronic producers, and there are plenty of quality ones here.