Kygo‘s debut artist album will make you float on “Cloud Nine“. Featuring numerous world-renowned singers, such as John Legend, Tom Odell, Foxes, Rhodes and Kodaline just to mention a few, the impressive new LP on Sony Music/Ultra Records is a Utopia of pure music pleasure.
The mild-mannered godfather of the sound dubbed “tropical house”, also known as Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll, triangulates the downtempo of the Nineties, the chillwave of the Aughts and the current appetite for deep house.
Ambient melodic elements usher in a meandering piano progression with slow-flow pulses and blears of reverb that dances from major to minor scales, telling an ultimately somber story that contrasts with the lighthearted tropical house ethos to some degree.
Even though, some claim that the success is secured by 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, his album is a piece of modern music art, superficially pretty with little of real substance. Actually, Cloud Nine exceeds all expectations.
For some opponers, 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. And with Foxes finding herself sinking in quicksand and lost in a desert, the lyrics are as earnest and emotionally inarticulate as a 19-year-old on Tinder. Well, this is pop, where cliche can be transcendent, but these joyless songs are chemically castrated of any passion or sexuality. It falls to – ahem – Kodaline to conjure the keenest feeling, on the laughably titled Raging.
Others also claim that there’s no piece of pop music on his LP 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.
Taking creative risks can definitely backfire. Were Kygo not the caliber of musician he’s proven himself to be, the manifold styles incorporated into each track of Cloud Nine could have sounded as disconnected from one another as the songs on Avicii’s sophomore album, Stories. Nonetheless, just enough stylistic threads weave each of the tracks together in such a way that although plenty of them couldn’t be categorized as tropical house, they still make sense alongside those that could.
As www.wegotthiscovered.com concludes and we totally agree, in many ways, Cloud Nine gives electronic music artists tasked with navigating the post-EDM landscape a roadmap of sorts. It gracefully pays respect to the influences at its foundation while simultaneously refusing to adhere to the restrictive boundaries of genres, incorporating instrumentals and styles with such taste that each track of the album sounds like the logical next step in the creative journey of a true mastermind.