Mandy Moore – Amanda Leigh

May 30, 2009

mandymooreMandy Moore’s new album, Amanda Leigh (her real first and middle name), was produced and polished to a high sheen by Mike Viola (Candy Butchers) and features Inara George (The Bird and the Bee) as a collaborator, so it arrives with some amount of indie pop/adult alternative cred. However, if Moore’s teen queen past complicates any inclination of yours to take her current music seriously, I’m not sure this album is going to be enough to change your mind. That said, this is a pretty solid Top 40-style album, though by Top 40, I mean Top 40 back in the 70’s. It’s not a retro record, exactly, but it’s strongly influenced by rock and pop from that era in particular, with Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, and Todd Rundgren among the acknowledged influences. I also hear some of Linda Ronstadt’s work with producer Peter Asher on yet other tracks, like the current single (and my personal favorite song from the record), the practically irresistible “I Can Break Your Heart Any Day Of The Week.” Honestly, I wish there had been more songs like “I Can Break Your Heart…” because it’s such an unadulterated slice of pop bliss, and the record could have used at least one more song in the same vein. But don’t get me wrong, songs like the opener “Merrimack River,” “Fern Dell” and the closer “Bug” are all highlights, too, and if the strongest material is weighted toward the first half, the album as a whole puts her head and shoulders above artists like Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Anna Nalick, Colbie Caillat and the like. Her music on Amanda Leigh puts her closer to the company of artists like Jennifer O’Connor, Laura Veirs and Jenny Lewis, all gifted musicians who expertly meld folk and country with pop. Here’s hoping that Moore can deliver on the promise of this album. (Though if it turns out she makes an album full of songs like “I Can Break Your Heart Any Day Of The Week,” I’d be okay with that, too.)


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