On her new album In Real Life, Mandy Moore shares a window into her world and all that illuminates it: the quiet heartaches and ineffable joys, crushing setbacks and life-changing leaps of faith. Deeply informed by her recent journey into motherhood, the Los Angeles-based artist’s seventh full-length brings a new level of self-possession to her songwriting, imbuing each track with both detailed storytelling and lucid self-reflection. When met with the nuance and power of her indelible voice, In Real Life radiates the kind of dazzling clarity that brightens our own perspective, ultimately making the world around us feel wider and warmer and alive with possibility.
“So much of this record came from future-tripping on the next chapter of my life and what it might look like: what parenthood would feel like, how it would change everything, and all the excitement and trepidation that comes with that,” says Moore. “At the same time it was about celebrating and acknowledging where we were at the moment and really trying to be completely present in the everyday—which is maybe the hardest part of the human condition.”
Produced by Mike Viola (Andrew Bird, Ondara, Lori McKenna), In Real Life expands on the whirlwind creative momentum Moore first set into motion on 2020’s Silver Landings (a critically acclaimed effort that marked her first new body of work in over a decade). To that end, Moore matches the album’s potent emotional current with a gloriously unpredictable sound, touched with elements of everything from jangly college-rock to cinematic synth-pop to classic singer/songwriter simplicity. Thanks to the charmed camaraderie and playful experimentation of Moore and her collaborators—including her husband Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and his brother/bandmate Griffin Goldsmith, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, keyboardist Lee Pardini (The War on Drugs, Aimee Mann), and bassist Sebastian Steinberg (Sharon Van Etten, Phoebe Bridgers)—In Real Life embodies a dreamy effervescence even in its most heavy-hearted moments.
From the very first seconds of the album-opening “Real Life,” Moore fully immerses the listener in her intimate lyricism and kaleidoscopic sound. With its elegant collision of moody guitar work, glacial synth lines, and luminous strings, the slow-burning epic captures the blissful upheaval of becoming a mother (“I spent every day/Filling every page/How the world revolved around me/When I saw your face/I knew right away/We’d be whoever we wanted to be”). Another track graced with a lavish string arrangement from composer Trey Pollard (Snail Mail, Faye Webster), the wildly glittering “Little Dreams” takes on a heady velocity as Moore pays homage to the tiny moments that make up the patchwork of our lives. On “In Other Words,” she speaks to the giddy futility of attempting to quantify her love for her son, a dizzying euphoria perfectly echoed in the song’s driving rhythms and brightly cascading guitar lines. And on the acoustic-guitar-laced “Four Moons,” with its heavenly harmonies and hypnotic B3 organ, Moore spins a spellbinding portrait of her life with her husband, proclaiming her affection with unbridled feeling (“I want to hold your hand/A little too much/Step on your toes/Pull you in close/Never really close enough”).
All throughout In Real Life, Moore suffuses her lyrics with an unguarded humanity that’s undeniably tied to her philosophy as a songwriter. “To me it’s all about staying open, staying aware, staying sensitive and empathetic to the people around me,” she says. “There’s something about expressing myself through lyrics and melody that makes me feel whole, and I see it as a privilege to have that outlet. And even though this album is very specific to me and my experience—there’s songs about my baby, my husband, my father, my friends—I hope everyone’s able to see their own lives in it. I hope they’re able to come along on the journey with me, and put themselves in the driver’s seat.”