The name Lloyd Cole is a direct portal to 1984 and the debut Lloyd Cole and the Commotions album called “Rattlesnakes.” In particular the song “Perfect Skin.” This was back when it was a thing to try and record videos off of MTV and I managed to get this one by having a blank tape on the ready at all times in the VCR.
Take a listen to “Perfect Skin”
The fixation was because of Cole’s mesmerizing voice singing “She’s got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin/And she’s sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan/When she smiles my way, my eyes go out in vain/She’s got perfect skin.” I loved that song. But within a few years I sort of forgot about Lloyd Cole and became more invested in Lloyd Dobler. (John Cusack’s character in the 80s film “Say Anything.”) It happens.
But as time marched on Cole’s name started popping up more and more as someone other musicians absolutely adored and as someone who continued to release a steady stream of solid records. Yet I never got around to further investigation. My bad. Big time.
Fast forward to three weeks ago when a press release arrived announcing a show at One Longfellow Square and Cole’s new album “Standards.” The album title had me assuming that Cole had gone the way of Bryan Ferry who released “As Time Goes By,” an album of jazz standards or Rod Stewart who has released several “Great American Songbook” CDs. To be clear, these aren’t bad things, just a different path that I was surprised to hear Cole was walking down. I of course was wrong because “Standards” is 11 original Cole tunes, all intelligent, wry and fantastic pop rock offerings. I was hooked from the onset of “California Earthquakes.” “They tell me the fault line runs right through here/so that maybe, that maybe what’s gonna happen, is gonna happen to me. That’s the way it appears,” sings Cole in his still terrific voice that has something of a twang to it and that has aged remarkably well. “Myrtle and Rose,” is a gentle, emotionally dense song. “Lost will be the souls of the wanton and the weak/And in the morning she’d be lying next to me/I would want for me/And she would give me more.” “It’s Late” sounds like it could have been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly or Ricky Nelson. “It’s late in this lonely hotel room/It’s late and there’s nobody but you on my mind.” The song’s got western stars in its eyes and is one of the album’s strongest. Then again, “Standards” in its entirety flows seamlessly along and has the kind of “listen-ability” that isn’t always evident in the “hit single” focused musical landscape of today. Cole, 54, is from England but has called Western, Massachusetts home for several years. I dare say it’s been many years since he’s stepped foot in Maine so let’s welcome him back and pack the house at One Longfellow. I am certain it will be worth it.
Lloyd Cole, 8 p.m. Friday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $20 in advance, $25 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com
LISTENING TO the Angel Olsen song “Windows” was, well, heavenly. Dreamy vocals with a chill electric guitar. Sign me up. There’s an intoxicating quiver to her crystalline voice. If Alice had come across headphones and an iPod with a note that said “Play Me” this is what she may have heard. Then she surely would have skipped that whole Mad Hatter Tea Party and found her way to an Angel Olsen gig. Which is exactly what you can do on Saturday night because Olsen is performing in Portland. Her latest record is last year’s “Burn Your Fire for No Witness” and along with “Windows” there are ten other spellbinding tunes. “Lights Out” The electric guitar sounds like it’s off in one corner while Olsen is in another before they come together, drift apart and come back together again. “Just when you thought you would turn all your lights out it shines/Some days all you need is one good thought strong in your mind.
Take a listen to “Windows”
No wonder more than 50K people are fans on Olsen’s Facebook page. Once again I’m late the party but am elated to be here.
Angel Olsen, 8 p.m. Saturday. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $15 in advance, $20 day of show, $25 preferred sating, 18-plus. portcitymusichall.com