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. With slow-flow pulses and blears of reverb, Cloud Nine triangulates the downtempo of the Nineties, the chillwave of the Aughts and our current appetite for deep house – a sound at once modern and nostalgic. There’s no piece of pop music on here that feels big as Bieber, even when John Legend sounds like Lionel Ritchie dancing on the ceiling about his newborn daughter on “Happy Birthday”; Kygo’s taste in vocalists leans a little too heavily towards milquetoast Australian indie-folk (Matt Corby, Angus & Julia Stone) and milquetoast U.K. white dudes that probably listen to R&B (James Vincent McMorrow, Will Heard). But recruiting big belters, huge guests or broken weirdos would only distract from the warm flow. It’s a gleaming, shimmering, mellow dance record that ripples out in waves instead of thuds: Here’s to re-releasing it as a non-stop 55-minute beach blanket bliss-out instead of 15 individual songs.