Rachel Efron. Photo by Mychal McCabe

Singer and pianist Rachel Efron is a Cape Elizabeth native who has been living in California’s Bay Area for 18 years. She released her fourth album, “Human As I Came,” on Oct. 16. With a jazz foundation, the album is moody and introspective, tinged with longing, adventure and tenderness.

Efron returned to Maine in mid-September, mostly to escape the smoky air from the wildfires. She’s enjoyed being back here so much, she’s staying put into November. You can stream her virtual album release show on Nov. 14. Details are at rachelefron.com.

The first single is the album-opening “I Changed My Mind, I Want You,” a sultry tune oozing with the mystery of horns and Efron’s shimmering vocals. Efron told me she appreciates the song’s arrangement. “I love that urgent, almost in an adolescent way, drum groove, and the very inventive mix of brass and reeds in the horn arrangement. ”

“Your Money Costs Too Much” swirls in slow spirals with angsty desire and the lines: “Train me on your cruelty/Hit with the absence of your touch/More air for you when I enter the room/Your loving costs too much.” “It’s such a vibe, and it’s been refreshingly easy for me to drop into it saucy, noir, femme fatale world,” Efron said about the track.

“Human As I Came” was produced by Jon Evans, who also plays bass on it. Evans has worked in various roles with the likes of Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan.

Efron’s path to music was a circuitous one. She holds a degree in social anthropology from Harvard University, but she also studied plenty of music and creative writing during college. When she was 20, Efron starting singing and wrote her first song. As for the piano, Efron has been playing since she was 8 years old.

Efron vacillated between album titles but ultimately went with her first idea, which she said is a statement of power. “We all born replete with our humanness: our emotions, our desires, our weaknesses, our gifts. I understand my life as a process of losing my grasp on it, feeling it slip further and further away and then finally going in search of it and reclaiming it.”

Cover of Rachel Efron’s “Human As I Came” album. Photo by Dave Getzschman, design by Dave Getzschman and Mychal McCabe

Some of that reclaiming stems from dealing with a late stage neurological Lyme disease diagnosis, which came in 2012 after years of fatigue, pain and cognitive impairment. Efron had to hit pause on being a touring musician and has spent significant time on what she calls a “comprehensive healing journey.” Efron described writing songs for the new album in “every small crack between the pain and confusion.” While she’s not completely recovered, Efron said that she finally knows with certainty that she’s “pointing toward health” and is thankful to have her cognition and much of her stamina back. “It was a certain kind of quest, and I’m more myself for having gone on it.”

Cover of the “Candy Baby” single featuring a young Jordan Stowell. Photo courtesy of Jordan Stowell

CANDY CRUSH

You didn’t think I was going to forget about Halloween did you? Open up your pillowcase or plastic pumpkin and permit me to toss in (from 6 feet away) the new Jordan Stowell song “Candy Baby,” released Friday.

The Portland musician sings and plays bass, synthesizer and guitar on the full-sized power-pop tune that’s more addictive than Junior Mints and Kit-Kats. “Give me that candy and I lose my mind/Open up the packages and let them pour out.”

Stowell told me he wrote the song earlier this month. He was inspired to keep pushing and writing more songs by following several musicians online, particularly Canadian artists PONY and Pretty Matty, along with Jason Anderson, who has been sharing many new songs on Instagram this month.

Stowell’s been at it since he was a teenager. His first endeavor was In the Audience, which he started as a solo project but then expanded to include several other local musicians, including Cam Jones and Dominic Grosso. In 2011, Stowell joined Sonia Sturino’s (Weakened Friends) band The Box Tiger, which put out two albums and performed at the Boston Calling music festival before disbanding in 2016.

You can find Stowell on Spotify, Bandcamp (jordanstowell.bandcamp.com) and Instagram (instagram.com/jordanstowellmusic).

Since it’s Halloween, here are a few extra treats about Stowell. You can see him briefly playing mandolin during Meg’s wedding scene in last year’s Greta Gerwig film “Little Women.” “I play in the wedding band, and while we aren’t heard in the film, we did actually perform before cameras rolled.” Stowell said it was his first time performing in front of people in almost three years, and it was in front of seven Oscar nominees and two of his celebrity crushes, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson.

Stowell said his involvement in the film came about because he answered a casting call for the film that took place in Boston in 2018. He initially was an extra in a different scene that ultimately got cut. But when a casting call for musicians was announced, his musical background earned him the opportunity. “I’m only visible for a few frames – and out of focus – but it was such an amazing and fun day for me,” he said.

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