Wild Hope (The Firm)

Mandy Moore claims she's a size eight. In her film career, she forgoes the sweetheart to play the teenage Antichrist. Ms. Moore popped onto the scene at age 15 with the song "Candy," and since then she's taken every opportunity to show us that her hair is brunette and her tracks, mid-tempo and cowritten. If she's not a pop archetype, then Moore's fifth, largely autobiographical album, Wild Hope, asks who she is. Moore is, of course, the modern woman -- a collection of idiosyncratic habits: "chocolate in the morning" and "coffee late at night," she sings on "Can't You Just Adore Her?" She defers to the past for nostalgia, which she announces to a chorus of supportive but impersonal backup singers on "Looking Forward to Looking Back." We'll attribute Moore's lyrical awkwardness, limited vocal range and traditional arrangements to the impossibility of modern communication. Moore's is a consciously earnest and strikingly anti-existentialist world, as she sings, "I shine uncovered/ Still undiscovered" on opener "Extraordinary," even as she's only her ex-boyfriend's "latest mistake." And though there's some strong blues on Wild Hope, Moore would do well to reinstate that most invidious of pop tropes -- the hook.

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