Depending on where you stand, tropical house music is either the sound of this summer or a blight on the world’s dancefloors. Steven Zhu, the 27-year-old Californian producer, is of the former camp but has used the style as a bed for a more varied and, at times, beguiling blend of mid-tempo electronic pop. Zhu’s influences also take in the filtered vocals and bouncy bass of Disclosure, and he pays frequent homage to the classic elements of balearic dance music. What is impressive is the way he assimilates all these influences into something distinctly his own. Even the falsetto vocals, which strike you as a straight imitation of the Weeknd at first listen, have a gentle, honeyed quality that enhances his arrangements. The sophistication with which Zhu has crafted this debut is a testimony to an apprenticeship uploading an anonymous track a day to SoundCloud. Sadly, not all the songs transcend the tropes of the genre that inspired them. Reaching, in particular, is horribly insipid, while Hometown Girl is a trite and cloying. But the chances are you may find yourself listening to Zhu this summer and feeling oddly content.
Paul MacInnes is a reporter for the Guardian