Mountain Bird - Cosmos II
Record Label: Universal Music Group
Release Date: June 11, 2014
You know what’s really awesome? Seeing a friend of yours from across the internet go from a somber, unknown bedroom musician to an internationally signed artist in no time flat. And that’s exactly what happened to my friend Adam Öhman.
Born and raised in Sweden, Adam's first musical influence was Explosions In The Sky’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place; drawing from the strong sense of melody, he began to write meticulous piano arrangements coated in reverb. I originally got in touch with him through his Soundcloud account and not even a year later, he released his first single, "Violent Night," on iTunes and Spotify. Within the next year, Adam went from a panic attack-ridden 20 year old writing about pills and anxiety to a signed artist for Universal Music Group, touring England and Wales, playing festivals and appearing on radio talk shows. And now, less than two years on from posting his brand of ambling, James Blake-esque tracks on Soundcloud, Adam has released his second Mountain Bird EP under Universal Music Group’s guidance: Cosmos II.
Cosmos II, which comes in at about 18 minutes long, has five tracks. Each track is unique musically and lyrically, as Adam’s taste has developed into more than just post rock mixed with pop; he’s begun to experiment with synthesizers and more direct vocal patterns. The most apt description for Cosmos II would be dream pop, as reverb and soaring melodies take the stage. The album is, as a whole, diverse and emotional.
Album opener “The Visitor” was the first single for Cosmos II, released a few weeks in advance of the album. “The Visitor” was given the full UMG treatment – a music video and radio promotion. The track opens gently, with haunting piano chords and intricate guitar picking patterns. Adam’s voice comes in moments later, raspy and introspective: “Looked outside the window.. It’s like a prison.. Sleep away the pain. Back to bed, too tired to leave the room,” and twanging guitar melodies begin to build behind his brutally honest self-examination. “The Visitor” manages to be intimate, yet not weakly so. Adam’s descriptions are blunt, giving a minimalist feel to the vocal presence. Guitar melodies drive this track, as the song builds into a soaring, intense upheaval, backed by a pulsing, understated rhythm.
The second track, “Prison,” is the most lyrically inspiring of the album. The track’s mixing is a little meatier than “The Visitor,” as the drum presence has been increased to grab the listener’s attention. A drone-like synthesizer appears now and again, giving an experimental and livelier feel to the track. Adam’s vocals are, as always, intimate but blunt. Guitar melodies and piano chords are once again the driving force of the music, but this track is more substantial, as everything isn’t dressed in reverb. Adam’s lyrics focus on feelings of hopelessness: “When the lights turn out, we’ll return to dust. We must.”
Track three, “Hospital,” features Swedish singer Nuoli. “Hospital” borders on the side of dream pop more heavily, as Nuoli and Adam’s voices intertwine through layers of claps and airy guitar plucking. The song doesn’t quite go anywhere until the last thirty seconds, but when it does, it’s breathtaking; layers of distorted guitars and multiple vocal tracks begin to soar out of nowhere, and end rather abruptly. This track could be better with an extension of that dynamic segment. Track four, “Satellites,” is rather quaint and nostalgic, featuring interesting vocal throwbacks to his Soundcloud demo days; this is Adam’s signature wordless ‘howling’ he does, which he then delays and spreads far back into the mix. It’s haunting, but also thought provoking.
The last song, “Cosmos,” is the most moving of all the songs. The song is a rich, haunting piano ballad with intermittent beeping noises and fading synth pads behind Adam’s narrations. He painfully begins, “Perhaps I’ve gone through pain and pills to know exactly how it felt for you. Maybe it is gone when you’re in Cosmos.” The song is extremely thoughtful as numerous layers of gentle instrumentation juxtapose Adam’s heavy lyrical context, “The doctors said it’s bad and that time was nearly over for you. But you cannot get more cancer here in cosmos.” At this point, Adam’s voice has begun to quiver and the piano melodies become darker. After this, the song begins to fade out gently.
Overall, Cosmos II is a far-reaching release for Mountain Bird. Adam’s songwriting has clearly evolved a great deal in the last year, as his lyrics are more evocative and his melodies are more moving. Cosmos II features meticulous, crystal clear production and an approach sound that is truly distinct among its peers.