It’s rare when an artist manages to come out of nowhere and conquer the charts. In the case of Mondo Cozmo, the appearance of overnight success is just that – an appearance. Josh Ostrander, the singer, songwriter and producer who records under the alias Mondo Cozmo, has been playing music for years in different bands. His previous group the Eastern Conference Champions even flirted with success when one of their songs appeared on a Twilight soundtrack.
After releasing a number of singles online, Mondo Cozmo has finally released their first full LP, Plastic Soul, and it’s a solid, if not fully cohesive, collection of acoustic-laden indie rock.
The title track samples a piano riff from a classic soul song, and then drifts into a hazy rocker pondering love and time travel Ostrander has said the song was inspired by David Bowie and written soon after his death, and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the Thin White Duke’s vocals on the track. The spacey orchestration at the end would work equally well on Major Tom’s journey.
“Hold On to Me” is another sample-laden track, layered with horns as Ostrander croons and pines to a lover. It’s a well-crafted song that feels familiar in a deja-vu type way. The more percussion-based “Higher” strives to be danceable, but the electro-cooed chorus and uninviting melody stray too far from Ostrander’s strengths as songwriter.
Mondo Cozmo reaches for U2-like, arena ready songs, but lands more in Imagine Dragons territory. Not that that should be anything to be ashamed of on a first album. “Come With Me” has the big, gospel-tinged chorus, and “Shine” shamelessly invokes Jesus, Mary and other religious imagery to add weight to its acoustic hymn. They are fine songs, but Ostrander will never be able to match Bono’s operatic vocals (nor can 99% of the rock frontmen out there), and with “Come with Me”, pulling back on the excess production to create more space could go a long way.
Album highlight “Thunder” achieves the stadium sound Ostrander seems to be going for, sounding like Sam’s Town-era The Killers. Another strong track, “Automatic”, more masterfully blends the anthemic aspirations and dance-rock desires at the heart of Ostrander’s songwriting, and will likely stand as one of the songs that truly represents Mondo Cozmo as an artist.
Ostrander has been writing songs for a long time, but on Plastic Soul it’s clear he’s still working on finding his voice as a solo artist. His influences are laid clear to see all over the album, making it sound like a mix-tape of the top alt. rock bands of today. He’s a good songwriter with tons of potential to grow, and if he continues to hone his craft, future artists will certainly be cribbing from him on their debuts.