Firm Music/EMI

Hot on the heels of her denouncement of her early career as a semi-successful teen pop star Mandy Moore has released her second “serious” record. The first 2003’s Coverage was a decent collection of songs by Joe Jackson XTC and Carole King. Wild Hope is the kind of record that a gal like Moore could only make after dating a dude like Scrubs star/reviled college-rock snob Zach Braff. It’s full of hipster collaborations (namely with indie folkies The Weepies plus Rachel Yamagata and Lori McKenna) introspective lyrics soft melodies and a CD jacket filled with ’70s style photography. How does Wild Hope stand as an album performed and co-written by a woman still best known to many as the girl from A Walk to Remember? Amazingly well. But take away the fact that nobody expected much from Moore before she started to reinvent herself and Wild Hope starts to lose its lustre. Sure the world of music criticism would come to a standstill if say Jessica Simpson put out an album of this calibre but compared to other artists who have already mastered what Moore is trying to do like Feist or Cat Power it’s squarely mediocre. Wild Hope’s songs are serviceable but there are very few hooks and the tracks blend together into a fuzzy mush. Moore clearly has great taste — the songs on Wild Hope are obviously influenced by the kind of music she chose on Coverage — but sometimes really wanting to make a great album just isn’t enough.