Mandy Moore has an image problem, and it’s not the one you’d think. By now, listeners have had plenty of time to get over the fact that Moore has very consciously ditched her teeny-pop roots — Amanda Leigh is her third album as a serious artist. Her problem has more to do with her self-conscious desire to be “real.” Since Amanda Leigh is Moore’s real first and middle names, the album’s title promises something pure and raw and Moore ought not to set herself up for those kind of expectations.
Amanda Leigh isn’t a bad album — Moore’s grown-up, ’70s-meets-Fiona Apple songwriting is fine, but it’s also not groundbreaking, nor is it particularly intimate or inspired. Moore’s voice is smooth and pretty, but there are no soul-baring moments. Some of Moore’s problems lie in the production, which is too slick for the kind of songs she’s trying to write and often hints back at her pop past. Perhaps it’s not fair to expect Moore to put out an album on par with indie songwriters like Jenny Lewis or Feist, but she seems to want to join that club so badly and just can’t put out a record worthy of her induction.