wears the trousers magazine


mandy moore: amanda leigh (2009)
July 28, 2009, 11:08 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , ,

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Mandy Moore
Amanda Leigh •••½
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The late 1990s seemed to explode with an endless stream of bubblegum pop. From Britney and Christina to N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys, there was a constant supply of entertaining yet wholly vapid fodder perfect for radio. In 1999, a young woman from Florida by the name of Mandy Moore joined their ranks with her catchy single ‘Candy’; however, after establishing herself as a talent on the scene, Moore didn’t follow her debut with stock albums built formulaically. Instead, she broke the mould of her contemporaries, and in 2003 released Coverage, an album of unique songs by well respected artists such as XTC, Joe Jackson and Joni Mitchell. Amanda Leigh, her sixth full-length album, continues down this path of exploration through the genre of the singer-songwriter and, like its predecessor Wild Hope, tries very hard to push Moore even further from her bubblegum origins and into legitimacy. Titled after her given name and allowing for a sultry black and white photo on the cover, the record practically begs to be taken seriously.

There really is no need for such measures. Amanda Leigh is a surprisingly well written album whose 11 tracks explore a plethora of genres. Moore moves from Joni Mitchell-inspired folk on opener ‘Merrimack River’ into the ’60s-inspired upbeat singalong ‘I Could Break Your Heart Any Day Of The Week’, before continuing her own interest in breezy 1970s contemporary rock in the harpsichord-laced ‘Indian Summer’ (one of three co-writes with The Bird & The Bee’s Inara George). Some might say that Moore’s recent marriage to alt-country phenomenon Ryan Adams and the co-writing and production presence of Mike Viola (famous for writing and singing the title track to the film ‘That Thing You Do!’) are largely responsible for Amanda Leigh‘s mature disposition, and that may very well be true. But where the album really shines is in Moore’s voice, which is capable of an enviable range, whether belting out pop songs better than most Idols or tender ballads as sultry as the album’s cover shot.

That said, Amanda Leigh is far from flawless. In creating an album of covers, it’s typical to cover multiple genres in a few tracks, yet on these original creations Moore simply sounds all over the place, ruining the pacing of the album. And it isn’t that the songs themselves aren’t good – they are catchy tunes, if perhaps falling prey to a bit of overproduction. The problem lies once again in the songs trying to do too much. The lush orchestrations and odd timings, coupled with complex harmonies and vocal overlays tend to overshadow the talent Moore has worked so hard to showcase. Worlds away from her pop start a decade ago, Moore has once again shown personal growth and an impressive capability with this new set of songs. There is still room for improvement, of course, but at only 25 years of age it’s quite certain that she’s far from stopping.

Loria Near
Available on import only; www.myspace.com/mandymoore


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