Born swaddled in Carole King's Tapestry, wholesome chanteuse Mandy Moore has struggled to escape the bubblegum-dance confines of her prescribed sound since that lame remix of 99's Candy.
So the "mature" Wild Hope, which picks up where 03's boho mom-covers collection Coverage left off, is no surprise. Teaming Moore with barefoot, wistful songwriters like radio-folk team the Weepies and rootsy songstress Lori McKenna, the album is bursting with soundtrack fodder for the next season of Grey's Anatomy.
McKenna's new country/folk circuit offerings showcase Moore's skills best. The melodies are less glossy, more mournful, and Moore's lyrics follow a heartbreak-survival trajectory that's satisfyingly smart. Rachael Yamagata's collabo, Ladies' Choice, is nice a chamber-pop swerve away from the soft keyboards of the rest of the disc.
Wild Hope is still transitional, and John Mayer producer John Alagia provides enough greasy slickness to ensure Moore's core fans won't flee. It'd be nice to hear what a slightly more indie dude like Mike Mogis could bring to her sound.