ALBUMS: Mandy Moore’s ‘In Real Life’ Declaration

The retro-pop songbird shoots across the synth-strew sky on new LP

Mandy Moore 2022 (Image: Verve)

Mandy Moore continues demonstrating her vocal agility. This time ‘round, she skates effortlessly with a creamy folk/pop blended with synths. And it’s wonderfully hypnotic.

Mandy roared back to life with 2020’s Silver Landings, a 10-song cathartic release centered around reclaiming her life and career. In much the same vein as Kesha’s Rainbow, the record served a distinct and profound purpose: to finally bid adieu to her past and forge ahead. Now, with her latest record, In Real Life, Moore marches onward, embracing elemental musical flourishes that previously served her well and carving out more synth-buffered centerpieces. It’s not as entirely effective as the 2020 LP, yet it manages to affirm that she’s discovered her stylistic lane after all these years.

The title track opens the record with this musical rearranging, while also stepping into the light with a moment of striking personal movement. “But I’m different now, I’m not sure how / The world don’t revolve around me,” she sings, referencing her first child. “Coming out of the dark with you in my arms / We see whatever we needed to see.” Parenthood is her new guiding hand, but it doesn’t bog down the record with saccharine sentimentality. Rather, it’s the inner transformations about life, death, pain, and uncertainty that mold her songwriting, amplified through static electric guitars and trippy folk percussion.


Artist: Mandy Moore

Album: In Real Life

Label: Verve/UMG

★★★1/2 (3.5/5 stars) 


With “Heartlands,” Moore aches for a friendship that has long lost its luster. “You make it difficult to be a friend ‘cause I won’t agree to disagree,” she squares up her voice. “I can be quiet till the bitter end / If that’s what you need from me.” One of life’s toughest lessons, especially in today’s heated socio-political environment, is knowing when it’s time to step away and letting a friendship wither away. It’s cruel but often necessary. Growth only comes when we trim the hedges.

Mandy Moore In Real Life, Verve/UMG 2022

“Just Maybe” dangles from a similar emotional thread, this time gazing upon a relationship believed to be “doomed from the start of us,” she sings with ripe sullenness, “by our friеnds and family / It’s like no one could see the true spark of us.” From Moore’s airy performance to pastel-painted lyrics, it’s a contender for among her best moments of her career.

Later, the singer-songwriter levels up once more on “Four Moons,” a Laurel Canyon-baked musing on time’s merciless hand. “Where do the days go? When did the clock start ticking, picking up tempo? There ain’t a step I’m skipping,” she gives these questions immense gravity amidst a fluttering, guitar background. It’s a somber groove, both a distraction from and a compliment to her earnest mental space.

Where songs like “Four Moons,” as well as “Living in the In Between,” “In Other Words,” and “Heavy Lifting,” feel like leftovers from Silver Landings, elsewhere Moore zips off across the stars on “Little Dreams,” “Little Victories,” and “Brand New Nowhere” with a smattering of decidedly stream-lined pop music.

Shades of folk are still ever-present, coursing through the background like earthquake aftershocks, but it’s clear the This is Us star is amped and ready to break those genre boundaries.

 

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott is a West Virginia-based freelance writer specializing in music, horror and LGBTQ+ issues. They also have bylines in Billboard, Grammy.com, Uproxx, Greatist and many others. Itching for creative freedom, they founded their own music-discovery and indie-horror site called B-Sides & Badlands. Reach them @JasonTheScott.

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