Sunday, June 07, 2009

Mandy Moore Makes a Comeback

In her teen-pop heyday, I was never a big Mandy Moore fan. To me, she was just a more boring Jessica Simpson. She sang songs really dull love songs and her voice wasn't anything spectacular. However, I did like a lot of the movies she was in (A Walk to Remember, The Princess Diaries, Saved...)

But then something changed. A few years ago, Moore started dating Zach Braff, and then singer-songwriter Greg Laswell. At about this time, she released a covers album called "Coverage." I don't own it, but based on what I've heard, it's not bad. She chose smart songs to sing, from artists such as Elton John, Carole King, Cat Stevens, and Blondie. Obviously, her versions aren't better than the originals, but the album at least showed her good taste, which I am sure is partially due to her relationships with men who have good taste.

Next, Moore recorded an album called "Wild Hope." It was her most original album to date, but still a little bland. It was just very polished contemporary pop with a singer-songwriter edge, especially on songs like "Gardenia." Here, Moore enlisted songwriters like Rachel Yamagata for help. Their influence is very apparent, but nothing on the album reaches the heights that Yamagata's music frequently does.

A few months ago, Moore released a new album, "Amanda Leigh." This album is another step in the right direction. It's jazzy and poppy on songs like "Pocket Philosopher" and "I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week," but quieter tunes such as "Bug" and "Merrimack River" balance the mood. There is a distinct 70's singer-songwriter influence on the album; it's almost as though all Moore listened to while recording it was Carole King's "Tapestry." Some tracks also seem to be directly influenced by her prolific singer-songwriter husband Ryan Adams, but none match his in terms of quality.

"Amanda Leigh" is not a fantastic album by any means, but it is definitely a solid effort. It's nice to see Moore moving in a new direction, and she definitely knows what kind of music she wants to make. I don't know if I'll continue to buy her albums, but I'll definitely give them a listen or two when they come out.

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