Review: Mandy Moore’s Silver Landings Is a Probing Examination of Adulthood

The singer’s seventh album boasts a sharper point of view while evoking a broader range of sonic influences.

Mandy Moore, Silver Landings
Photo: Carter Smith

It’s been over a decade since Mandy Moore’s last album, Amanda Leigh, saw the singer turned actress pivoting from teen pop to a more mature musical palette. Her seventh album, Silver Landings, boasts a sharper point of view while evoking a broader range of sonic influences, including country and ’70s pop-rock, for a probing examination of adult life.

The album opens with “I’d Rather Lose,” a sophisticated, Laurel Canyon-esque country-rock track that showcases Moore’s more seasoned voice. The song’s lyrics are shot through with a world-weariness shaped by the increasingly cynical nature of modern life, contrasted by the resilience of the soaring chorus: “If the only way to win is by breaking all the rules/I’d rather lose.” It’s one of several on the album that finds Moore directly and openly grappling with living in a world that will, at some point, force you to compromise your principles.

Throughout, the album’s production is sleek but never saccharine, with a smart focus on Moore’s voice and lyrics. The singer’s soaring vocal makes clear the depth of her love for her adopted hometown on “Trying My Best, Los Angeles,” while the album’s high-water mark is “Forgiveness,” an affecting meditation on what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. Moore reaches a moment of catharsis during the bridge, declaring, “Will I forgive you? You don’t get to know.” The song is a clear-eyed and moving ballad for the Me Too era, but its scope is more personal than political. Moore thinks through the complicated questions surrounding forgiveness and culpability in a gentle yet incisive way.

A few songs here lack the lyrical polish of those moments. The title track offers a clunky twist on the familiar cliché about finding a silver lining in the darkest of situations, while “Fifteen”—about Moore’s journey to stardom, breaking onto the pop star circuit before she was old enough to drive—is perhaps a little too specific to feel relatable: “Missed prom, missed graduation/No college in the fall/On the road with the boy bands/Singing for people in the mall,” she recounts in a muted tone. The similarly themed “Stories Reminding Myself of Me” is much more accessible, thanks at least in part to its guitar-driven, AM-radio energy. By drawing on the sounds of ’70s singer-songwriters, Moore has successfully completed the transition from her teen-pop origins to adult troubadour.

Score: 
 Label: Verve  Release Date: March 6, 2020  Buy: Amazon

Seth Wilson

Seth Wilson is a writer, editor, and theatre scholar/director living in Chicago. He is a former 12-time Jeopardy! champion and an avid Georgia Bulldogs fan.

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