In Real Life

Mandy Moore

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In Real Life Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

It's easy to call In Real Life a sequel to Silver Landings, the 2020 album that found Mandy Moore resuming her music career after a decade hiatus. Moore once again is working with producer Mike Viola -- a collaborator of hers since 2009's Amanda Leigh -- with Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes (she's also married to former) anchoring a group of musicians that also features bassist Sebastian Steinberg and keyboardist Lee Pardini. Sonically, this provides a continuous thread from Silver Landings, but Moore also continues to write from her heart on In Real Life. Where its predecessor was filled with songs of rebirth and empowerment, In Real Life is gentler, concentrating on domestic warmth where the partners are healthy enough to know how to meet in the middle -- a compromise that becomes essential with a new baby entering the family. Moore sounds happy and avoids saccharine conclusions in her lyrics, an openhearted and clear-eyed approach that makes the occasional drifts into sweet-natured adult contemporary forgivable. Often, the tunes on In Real Life do have a genuine pulse and pronounced hooks -- "Brand New Nowhere" carries a bright optimism, "Living in Between" is cheerfully muted power pop, "In Other Words" is a propulsive bit of wannabe arena rock -- but the baseline remains dewy ballads and morning light anthems, music built for comfort, not speed. It's a welcoming, cheery sound that matches Moore's optimism, but it's hard not to wish there was an occasional loose end or ragged fringe.

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