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Stephen Duffy & The Lilac Time Song Reviews


The Ups and Downs (1985)

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The Ups and Downs

Kiss Me A

This is one of those '80s pop songs that might not be immediately infectious to me, but it has such a friendly, pleasant melody that it eventually works its way into my brain, and I'm bobbing my head most agreeably with it. Even after it's through playing. Duffy's vocals might not have the smooth-and-suave power of his Duran Duran replacement Simon Le Bon, but his sweet and high-pitched tone (which reminds me of Neil Tennant of The Pet Shop Boys) fits the song quite well. This is one of his most well-known songs in the UK, peaking at their charts in the Top 5. But nothing in The States?

She Makes Me Quiver A-

This is almost exactly the same quality as the hit song “Kiss Me” except I find the hook to be only marginally less memorable. Another reason for the slight down-rate is that it's almost the same song. The drum machines sound the same, and they're playing the same tempo. But this stuff is so happy, lighthearted, and enjoyable that it isn't a big deal.

A Masterpiece A-

Once again, it's almost the same song as the previous two except the basic melody and riffs are different. But they continue to sound fresh and fun, so I'm not going to bother complaining about it. As long as you're up on the dance floor dancing around anyway, why not just let the momentum continue going? The funk guitar work is quite good and fun. The instrumental effects are more noisy and cluttery in this song, however, and I think they could have been mixed a bit more smoothly. (A few whirly sound effects just pop out at me, and nearly interrupt the flow.)

But Is It Art? A-

This is even more lighthearted than the previous tunes, particularly with that fruity flute riff playing a cute loop reminiscent of Talking Head's “Naive Melody.” The vocal melody is bouncy, sweet and memorable. I suppose we could complain that he's still using a drum machine at the same general tempo of the three previous songs, but it's a bit more in the background and it has a slightly different sound.

Wednesday Jones B+

A piano ballad without drum machines! Ballads are certainly Duffy's strong suit in The Lilac Time, and this one starts with very strong hooks, but unfortunately it doesn't quite pick up the steam necessary for this to make a strong impression. Nonetheless, it warms up on you, and it's certainly a good change-of-pace for the album.

Icing on the Cake A

This is quite clearly another attempt at a huge radio single! Yes, it's another Duran-Duran-esque pop tune, and the synthesizers and beats seem more polished and streamlined than the previous songs. ...And I'll tell you, this guy knows how to write good pop hooks! Not only does it have a great verses section, but a wonderful chorus! The bridge he writes to get to that chorus almost seems too refined. Clearly, there are good melodic ideas just brimming out of this guy. I mean, if Stephen Duffy rejoined Duran Duran in 1985, and they only did these songs for Notorious, that album would clearly be a minor classic instead of the crap-pile that it is.

The Darkest Blues B

He's going to get way better at ballads. Or at least, he's going to find a way to better instrument them (unquestionably with a band he was on the verge of forming). This ballad is rather dull and flat. But the melody is actually what ends up slightly winning me over; it is strong enough to actually mildly pop out at me. ...This song still has a real problem with development and it never catches fire. The quicker songs do catch fire, but that's just because of the drum machine!

Be There B+

Back to the agreeable and catchy drum machine ridden pop numbers! It's not extremely lesser than the other songs and the hook is strong, but I feel like I have to downgrade it just because I have an awful difficult time telling it apart from the other songs. However, the use of the string section that's punctuated by pizzicato strings was a nice idea.

Believe in Me B+

You know, if Stephen Duffy wasn't so terribly good at writing pop hooks, I would be screaming at him for writing another song that sounds the same. I mean, the riff is similar, the beat is similar, the instrumentation is similar. But how can I possibly scream at somebody for writing a song that's so warmhearted and pleasant? ...No I can't. I'm still bobbing my head quite agreeably to this.

The World At Large Alone B+

This is a ballad, but a real B+ as opposed to the last two, which were just B+s as a penalty for saminess. The melody is sweet and sounds like one of Barry Manilow's good songs. The melody is sweet, and the string arrangements were a nice, lush touch. But the problem I have is the beat is a little too plain and lethargic, and the texture is rather flat, so it's not given the proper chance to catch fire and soar. That's a shame, because there's definitely the potential for an A+ rating here.


Because We Love You (1986)

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Because We Love You

Something Special A

He's still not wanting to abandon the pop bandwagon, but he also seemed to want to expand his sound a little bit. (I get that impression more on the later songs, but I hear it here, too.) At its core, it's a more or less standard '80s pop song, except it's way catchier than the norm. The bass guitar keeps a punchy groove, and maybe you'll get the desire to dance to it. The instrumentation is way more stylized than it was generally on the previous album, but his songwriting is just as solid and consistent. He decorates it with some well-arranged Vegasy trumpets, scaling synth-strings, and a sweet female singer who he duets with.

A Lot of Ink A-

Disco bass, xylophones, funk guitar, Vegas horns, accordion, friendly vocals, catchy melody, good chord progressions... How can it go wrong? I suppose I know of other '80s pop classics that more immediately capture my attention, such as “Billie Jean,” but this song honestly isn't that much farther behind. Stephen Duffy still comes off as awfully breezy, and it seems that his vocals could have used some extra post-production, particularly in the chorus. But still, this is a terrific pop song.

Sunday Supplement A-

Here's something that we didn't see in his previous album: A BALLAD! I'm fully aware that he's good at ballads, as evidenced by his Lilac Time albums, and this is definitely one of the good ones. The melody is sweet and it's sweetly sung though perhaps not extremely memorable. The elaborately arranged strings in the background was an excellent idea, and continues to show that he was interested in being more interesting than he was in his debut.

Why Shouldn't I? B

By this point, I'm more or less unmoved by the Vegas horns, because this is the third song so far in this album to feature them! Although I still love them, especially when he combined them with busy Latin-style percussion. This is a very stylish song. However, the problem I see with it is that, despite all its style, it doesn't catch fire. Even the chorus seems pretty flat. The melody is part of the problem, but the song also seems to be a bit long to develop. However, this is a formidable effort, for sure. His instrumentation standards weren't even remotely this elaborate in the previous album.

Unkiss That Kiss B+

Another song that's generally quite good, particularly in the melody department, which offers a few nice, breezy hooks. The instrumentation is certainly varied, at one point breaking into a soulful gospel choir and a Stevie-Wonder-style harmonica (that sounds a bit fake, unfortunately). So, this is a perfectly enjoyable tune. However, it's missing a solid groove or a drive that helps keep it flowing.

I Love You A-

By all accounts, this should have been a major hit. It has all the required '80s cliches. The Madonna-style bass synthesized groove, fake horns, quirky though obviously '80s synthesizers. The melody is catchy as all hell, and Duffy's friendly vocals makes it even more accessible. (Although I have to imagine that a stronger singer might have been more appropriate!) It's not the best pop song I've heard by a long shot, but it's incredibly tuneful and feel-good. Needless to say, if you're into such music, then here's a gem for your annals! I wouldn't mind hearing this played on the radio from time to time on that same station that plays “The Boys of Summer,” but I guess the only way that's going to happen is if I take over the radio station. …I might do it.

When You Go to Bed B+

At some point, I have a feeling that I'm going to start taking Duffy's natural knack of songwriting for granted. I'm not used to listening to albums and finding everything on it to be breezy and likable. Especially these ballads, which are frequently just gorgeous. I suppose he could have improved this by giving it a chance to soar in a few spots. He was on the right track with the string section, but it only provides a nice atmosphere.

Love Station B+

Happy, upbeat, likable. I love those scaling strings in the background, as well as the well-arranged horn section. The melody is wonderful, and even has quite a brilliant middle-eight section, which is just as memorable as the central hook. What I have said about this pretty much applies to all the other upbeat songs on this album! I suppose that suggests that Stephen Duffy suffers a slight saminess problem, but considering I'm enjoying the crap out of this, it's not really a problem. Though perhaps not *ideal*.

We'll Never Argue A

Yes, there is that undeniable saminess issue since this song is the same sort of thing as “I Love You” and “A Lot of Ink.” It's a very cliché '80s song with a disco bass, horns, a bit of funk guitar, and an almost insanely likable melody, particularly that chorus, which he sings with a powerful gospel choir. He does find an occasion to bring in some tubular bells (or some tubular-bell-ish instrument), which jumps out at me in a pleasing way. And then it all culminates with a surprisingly very exciting trumpet solo. ...So, yet again, Stephen Duffy has created an incredibly fun song, and this one in particular seems to get more fun as it progresses. The only reason you wouldn't like something like this is if you don't like '80s pop music at all.

Julie Christie A-

I've read this described as one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded, and I'll tell you that it certainly is beautiful. The string section is sweeping, and you can hear a clarinet soar along beautifully over the mix! However, in spite of that, I can't help fight the feeling that this song lumbers around a bit too much. Despite the sweeping strings and beautiful strings, I don't quite find myself getting swept along with them.

BONUS TRACKS:

Done For A-

A piano ballad! The melody is pretty although awfully slow moving, and the string section, once again, helped add beauty to the mix. It starts out a little bit slow, but it actually picks up and gets way more inspiring by the end. This sort of evolution is what a song like “Julie Christie” could have used to intensify its beauty. This song unfortunately doesn't quite have the beauty thing down so well.

Love's Duet B

Well I suppose this is how bad that it could have been if all the other synthesizer songs weren't so much fun. The difference is not the melody, which is quite alright, but it's the beat. The regular rhythm is taken care of by a small sound effect in the background that sounds like someone hitting a tennis ball. The result is, partly, that it sounds sluggishly paced and dull. There were some nice stadium-drum exclamations in here, however. If only this thing were more danceable, it might have been quite cool.

Holes in My Shoes A-

Another piano ballad! Does this guy have a faucet coming out of his head, and pretty piano ballads come out? Perhaps the only problem with this is it doesn't quite stick with me, but it's nonetheless a piece of small beauty.

Unkiss That Kiss (Extended Version) C+

The extended bits makes this song look too extended. That is, unless you like bare drum machine rhythms and obnoxious synthesizer hits. In fact, that terrible drum machine is present through the whole song, and pretty much sucks all the fun out of it. Boo.

I Love You (The New Diversion) C+

Whoever did these remixes should be shot in the head. ...Not with a bullet, of course, because that would be a rather extreme penalty for poor remixes. Maybe we could just throw a bit of hay at his head. TAKE THAT, YOU AND YOUR OBNOXIOUS DRUM MACHINES!

Love is Driving Me Insane (Reversion) C

I'm not sure what happened to these bonus tracks, but … holy crap! This song is pretty terrible. The drum machines are playing awkwardly. They're more clunky than exciting. And, his melody never become airborne. At least this shows me that I wasn't hallucinating in the main album; all those melodies really are excellent! Fortunately, he likely had the good sense to keep this clunker off the album... But since it was recorded, then why not include it in the bonus tracks? (By the way, bonus tracks never have bearing on the determination of the overall album rating.)

The Disenchanted A-

Awesome. Duffy is on the fast track to some serious bonus-track redemption! This is an extremely delightful, mid-tempo pop song with a nice main melody and some high-pitched back-up singers that come in sweetly with some calls of “La-la-la-la-love you forever!” The instrumentation comes off as slightly bare at times. There's a string section, but it's only playing short notes in the chorus. Similarly, the horn section isn't too complicated.

Cocksure B-

Whawhat??! ...Oh, according to the dicktionary, it is another word for “cocky.” There's my vocabulary word for the day. Basically a take-it-or-leave it acoustic guitar ballad. It sounds like some sort of attempt at country-western music, but the melody seems a bit weird for that. Also, I'm not sure what was with that harmonica, which sounds more like a dying bagpipe. (I think Duffy must have some sort of harmonica deficiency!) This isn't terrible, but it also doesn't really work.


Designer Beatnik (1986)

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Designer Beatnik

Blasted with Ecstasy A-

Given that this is the first time I ever reviewed a song like this, I'm not sure how actual fans will react to my ratings. I suppose it doesn't matter since these ratings are usually based on my gut emotions! You'll probably like this song if you're British and you like Madness. It's heavy on the drums, has some grooving bass guitar, and it has a catchy riff played with some swinging horns. If that description doesn't ring of Madness to you, then I'm not doing a very good job describing this song! The main difference is that there's no singing in this. There is some talking, which sounds to me like they were extracted from some old movies. That seems to be up Duffy's alley, since he mined a few old movies for his music videos. ...This is a pretty good groove they have going, too. I definitely see this as an art-piece rather than a club-piece. The main groove is catchy and sort of detached. In the middle it stops playing, and the timpani is given a chance to play a doom-ridden passage

Programme 7 B

The reason Americans removed the word “me” from “program” was because we thought it would be hilarious if we could make it look like British people were saying “program me” whenever they would start talking about the television. This song is a lot like the previous one, except the horn-led groove remains a little more static throughout the entire piece. The synth groove is also a little more rapid and, for that reason, it sounds slightly more dated. (Let's be clear, this album is very 1986... but some songs are more 1986 than others...) There's a lot of sampling going on here, but instead of people speaking in complete sentences, they're just snippets of noises. At one point, I hear someone make gagging noises. Woooo!

Moments of Being (Interlude)

This is a heavily atmospheric, one-minute instrumental that doesn't contain any danceable drum machines. Probably a good thing, since I would probably want to bash my brains in if I had to listen to those grooves for 40 minutes straight! We hear some pretty woodwinds playing long-drawn-out but rather inconsequential notes, and a wavy synthesizer.

Killed By Poetry C+

That happened to me once in Brit Lit. My brain went completely numb, and I had to watch a little bit of Home Improvement to get feeling back. ...Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I used to watch Home Improvement. Anyway, the grooves are getting way less interesting at this point, and I'm beginning to mentally check out. If you like weird '80s artsy music like The Art of Noise, then feel free to raise these ratings. But this just isn't doing anything for me. Where are the infectious horn grooves? The horn is still playing, but it's only sparingly providing some background noises. The horn groove was replaced with a boring synthesizer loop that sounds like everything else from 1986. This might end up working on a hilariously dated '80s sports movie, but it's kind of boring when I'm just listening to it in a dark room like I am now. I hear a woman speaking in French over the groove, but she's not really following its rhythm.

Moments of Being (Interlude) B-

...Yes, this album was not made for me. There's a fringe audience of people who like weird synthesizer artsy music, and if you're in that audience, then get this!! This is another incidental piece with some wavy synthesizers and strings playing some rather inconsequential notes. I hear a young girl muttering over it, complaining that something is “boring.” Again, it's odd, but I wish they would create something a little more engaging.

Man B

Man, this is another weird '80s, synth-poppy, artsy-fartsy song! The groove is based on a simple but fast, scaling bass-line that plays pretty much non-stop throughout the whole piece. The bass-line isn't catchy at all, so listening to it for a long time like this gets to be a little bit irritating. They also don't bring me any of those awesome horn-grooves, but rather make this another one of their cluttery art pieces. It's quite chaotic with all sorts of crazy and puttery horns noodling around, and synthesizers playing seemingly random notes. ...I do generally like crazy, almost avant-garde art pieces like this, but only when they give me striking imagery. ...All I'm imaging from this is a lot of people in a street wearing freaky costumes and simultaneously having epileptic seizures. ...This is interesting to be sure, though.

Dream Machine C+

“Get into my dream machine and make me come / get into the dream machine and touch me / get into my dream machine and go faster, faster, faster...” Hopefully it's not just a dirty mind... Anyway, this is another very '86 sounding song with an electro-groove that isn't too far removed from the sort that Madonna would put in her pop albums at the time. It really doesn't do much for me. A horn groove will occasionally come in, but it's never very much. We're left mostly with just a bare drum machine beat. Some atmospheric synthesizers and strings come in sometimes, which I guess illustrate some sort of dream-like state. I dunno. I can't really get into it.

Candy Floss Pink B-

I'm really not bored out of my mind with this album—I'm just fairly indifferent to it. I've been very impressed with some artists' takes on ambient music, but these guys just don't give these things much wonder. It's a series of sound effects that don't really go very far. They give us a rather excellent saxophone solo, at least, which is playing amidst a quiet tambourine, echoing gongs, and bendy synthesizers that wave in and out. It's tranquil at times, but not nearly freaky enough to mean much to me.

Just Another Honey C+

You know the drill. Loud drum machines, synth-bass, and the occasional horn groove. Why can't the horn groove be consistent throughout this song and continually changing its patterns? It wasn't a mind-blowing thing, but at least it was fun. I like that the synth-bass sounds more in Kraftwerk's domain circa The Man-Machine instead of Madonna, but really that's just a minor thing. This song repeats forever and ever. The female-spoken dialog has already lost its novelty. WE NEED NEW BLOOD, DAMMIT!!!

Designer Beatnik C

Alright, maybe I'm starting to get a little bit bored. This is one of those ambient tracks, but it didn't seem like they went nearly far enough with the texture. All we get is someone playing around with a xylophone, some synth horns playing chords, a sparse bongo drum, and a triangle. In the background we hear some people talking, but of course we don't understand what they are saying, because it's so far into the background.

Perfume From Spain A

Holy crap, this song is pretty cool! It's the only song with actual lead vocals. They're rapping part of the time, but for the chorus, they sing a rather haunting melody. We hear a few rappers taking over at intermittent times, which is quite a lot of fun. The synth-bass groove is catchy, and those vibe instruments play some rather foreboding notes. Occasionally the percussion changes around a little, bit which tends to keep it fresh. We also get interrupted by small episodes of sound effects, which actually more or less work with the flow. They go off in a few tangents in the middle that I don't care about, but eh... Also, weirdly enough, I keep hearing that quickly descending string riff from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in this.


The Lilac Time (1987)

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The Lilac Time

Black Velvet A+

Wow! Instead of trying to sound like Duran Duran, Stephen Duffy finally found the perfect fit for his soft, friendly vocals and sensible songwriting: Atmospheric folk-pop. This has such an atmosphere that listening to it is like breathing in a warm summer. The melody is beautiful. Quite simple, but effective. The forever-strumming acoustic guitars pepper up the texture beautifully, but it's the warm reverb heavy singing that wins me over. In particular the background singing, which pops up at just the right times. It gives off a heavy British vibe... which I think is mostly explained by the ye olde medieval chord progressions. But the harmonium and violins are also there deeply in the background.

Return to Yesterday A

No way are they going to give us a samey album! The previous song was the atmospheric ballad, and the follow-up song is something you can tap your foot to. Not any less danceable than his Duran Duran albums, except they use picking acoustic guitars and shuffley drums to accomplish the task. I loved some of Stephen Duffy's drum machine stuff on his previous albums, but I love the finger picking stuff even more. This also still sounds like a much better fit for his soft vocals. ...I mean, who can't love hearing such a warm friendly voice with a danceable, finger-picking song? Oh... and the melody is fantastic. The hooks are potent. I've been listening to this album off and on over the past month, and I've been getting this stuck in my head even when I wasn't listening to it.

Rockland A

Probably the closest thing they get to those Duran Duran albums, because I hear some samples and drum machines. But they use some strummy acoustic guitars to give it the texture, which makes it seem more homely to me. (Lovely!) The atmosphere is rather dark and intense for this album. The acoustic guitars are playing an actual riff that's quite good. I suppose with all the sound effects (whooshy keys, large drum booms, and odd vocal synthesizers), this was supposed to be an art-performance piece. It's not bad!

You've Got to Love A-

I think I respond just as well as anybody with overly cutesy music, but I'll have to admit that the first thirty seconds of this song don't sit that well with me. It's very bouncy, rather corny, and the melody comes off as somewhat corny. But then the chorus comes in with some striking chord changes and fiddles, which makes this song take off for me. So once again, this is another winner.

Love Becomes a Savage B+

Time for a slow ballad! ...The thing about Stephen Duffy, I think, is that all of his songs have interesting melodies to them. Perhaps they don't have that infectious quality that comes from classic Duran Duran albums, but they're all very, very easy to soak up and love. I got that a lot on his pop albums, but the fact that these songs are orchestrated with acoustic guitars, it makes it that much easier to soak up. The reason I say that here is because other than the melody, this isn't a terribly interesting song. The acoustic guitar riff is kind of boring. But that simple melody he delivers and his soft vocal delivery, how could I possibly dislike this? They put in some background touches in an attempt to give it atmosphere such as a pan flute or whoosy synthesizers. Appreciated, but still not enough in the instrumentation department.

Together A-

One of the upbeat songs, so it's automatically fun. Naturally of course, they give us another loveable albeit non-infectious melody and orchestrate it with organic sounding drums and jangly guitars. The guitars play a fun pattern, and it's accompanied by a keyboard playing some nice jingles. This isn't one of the most memorable bits on the album, but I nonetheless tap my toes to it mercilessly.

The Road to Happiness A+

I REALLY LOVE THIS ONE!!! That's funny, because unlike “Black Velvet” or even “Return to Yesterday,” this song doesn't particularly leap out at me and scream greatness. But it's one of those songs that I find myself just loving whenever it pops up. I said before that Duffy is/was pretty much incapable of writing an uninteresting melody, but this is clearly one of his better ones. It's the sort of melody I'll start singing along with (and hopefully I'm not in a public place when I'm on my iPod). The beat is taken on by nicely textured bongos, sweetly strummed acoustic guitars, and a harmonium providing most of the background texture. This is so beautiful!

Too Sooner Later Than Better A

You certainly can't fault them for lack of diversity. The previous song was an immersible ballad, and here, they're back to those fun, bouncy songs! And holy crap is this fun! If your toe isn't tapping throughout this piece, then I reckon your foot is broken. The instrumentation isn't anything more complicated than a shuffley drum beat, lively acoustic guitar picking, and a bouncy bass-line (and a bit of a fun party-time piano solo in the final third). And it didn't need to be. The verses section is a lot of fun and catchy, but he undergoes a few very interesting chord changes for the chorus. That shows me the power of good chord changes in pop-rock.

And The Ship Sails On A+

Hi there!! I almost just like this song for its woody, shuffly rhythm that is combined with a textured keyboard-strings riff. It's very mesmerizing to me! But, in excellent form, Duffy delivers one of the album's most infectious tunes with his lovely soft vocals of his. ...With all these great songs on this album, I'm disappointed in the planet earth for making these albums so obscure!

Trumpets From Montparasse A

And the album closes with another strong piece. It's also completely unlike anything else in the album since it's an instrumental! The instrumentation isn't complicated at all... the main melody is taken on by an acoustic guitar that is playing mostly eighth notes. The drumming consists of some trotting wood blocks. Midway through a fiddle comes in and it's playing exactly the same thing as the main acoustic guitar melody. But the chord progression is interesting, and I really like the fact that some vocal “lah-lah-lahs” come in by the end, which makes me think woodland gnomes are singing it or something. In the end, this is yet another song that's easy to take to heart.

BONUS TRACKS:

Reunion Ball A-

There are versions of this album with more bonus tracks on them, and I have a dream that one day I will have one of these versions! (Some rat bastard is charging $60 on Amazon for a bonus track version of this album right now.) But for now, I'll just talk about the bonus tracks that also happen to exist on their compilation Compendium! This is another lovely song although not terribly distinctive. The melody is nice but not terribly infectious, and the instrumentation is some strummy guitar and shuffly drums. The middle-eight section provides an oddly alluring diversion, though, and it's supplemented with some soundbytes from what seems like a ham radio.

Gone For a Burton A

That's exactly what I told someone when I went to the theaters last March to see Alice in Wonderland! Anyway... WOW to this song. If you don't have the version with the bonus tracks, then you're going to have to own the Compendium disc, because this song is beautiful. The melody is so good and well delivered that it nearly has me teary eyed. The atmosphere is also very thick, like “Black Velvet,” but not quite as good in my opinion. But very close. It gets even more arresting after the one-minute mark when a homely harmonica comes in. That instrument can either be terribly annoying, or it can be beautiful. Here, it's beautiful. It doesn't stick around much, but when it does, it makes its mark. It probably says something about this band that they had songs like this hanging around to be used as bonus tracks.

Streetcorner A-

Good but I'm not totally floored by this song, it's quite beautiful. The main melody is catchy and sweetly delivered, as you'd expect. The drums are mid-tempo, and there's some backing strings providing atmosphere at just the right volume. ...But unexpectedly, they change the time signature in the middle to a waltz, which I don't think totally works.


Paradise Circus (1989)

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Paradise Circus

American Eyes A

They open the album on a decidedly pleasant note with this extremely melodic song that really ought to have been a hit on the college radio circuit. (I mean, didn't college kids from the late '80s like jingle-jangle music with warm vocals and catchy melodies?) This is a lovely folk rocker with many arpeggiating guitars, a bouncy bass, a loud drum beat, rhythmic hits of keyboard-string, and back-up singers that go “do-do-do-do-doo!” It's a wonderful, two-and-a-half-minute pop song.

The Lost Girl in the Midnight Sun A+

This is one of the songs that made me want to review Lilac Time to begin with. This song is amazing. The song starts out with some very light and pleasant arpeggiating guitars while Duffy comes in with a pretty melody with his soft vocals. More arpeggiating guitars and a bass eventually chime in, which draws me even deeper into it. And around the 45-second mark, a shuffly drum beat pops up, which starts to make my toe start to tap. ...By the end, the song gradually becomes even more driving and lush... It's brilliantly done.

The Beauty in Your Body A

And they follow that up with this lovely, rather pastoral ballad. The guitar textures are quite soft, which matches the style of Duffy's voice perfectly. (Again, doesn't this make those Tintin albums seem so misguided in retrospect?) Duffy's ability to compose and endless supply of interesting melodies continues here. In fact, he writes good melodies so consistently that they spoil me! Like the previous song, they keep subtly layering on instruments as it goes along, which makes it seem to get lusher as it goes along. However, unlike the previous song, there's no strong backing beat... So, this is one to sit back and listen to in the shade.

If the Stars Shine Tonight A+

This one does have a strong backing beat, so you can tap your foot a little bit while you're sitting there in the shade. Plus it has a little bit of a country-music flair, and thus you really should be outdoors when you listen to this. The instrumentation is lush and beautiful once again... There's so many nice things for my ear to listen to. Not only Duffy's great melody with his soft vocals, but there's a thoughtful slide guitar noodling in the background, a synthesizer that sounds like an accordion, some more textural synth-string hits. Mid-way through, some female back-up singers come into accompany Duffy, and they're great. This is yet another song that should have become famous on the college-rock radio.

The Days of the Week A

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it's never-ending with this album. Such a high concentration of excellent songs all in one place! This is another one of the happy toe-tapping songs with another shuffly beat, breezy melody softly delivered by Duffy, and some more lush instrumentation. The bass guitar playing back and forth between two notes also gives this a bit of a country music flair (although probably closer to the height of The Byrds' career than real country music)! They use some tight vocal harmonies, which always perfectly suits this sort of music.

She Still Loves You A

This is one of the ballads, and … WOW. How do I contain myself from gushing all over yet another song? I mean, he can write mellow ballads equally as good as he can write fast-paced, country-hoedown songs. There really aren't too many people out there who can do that to this level. This is like a beautiful British folk tune, except the melody is more modern, and of course it benefits from being delivered beautifully by Duffy's soft vocals. I should also mention somewhere that he writes excellent, thoughtful lyrics (I mean, these songs are great with or without lyrics, right?) (“The girl sits all alone / A candle burns / She's thinking of herself / Will I ever learn? / She is almost blue, she still loves you / But when things are through / She pauses all those scenes / Before the story wanes / He knew the lines by heart / But did he know what he was saying?”)

Paradise Circus A

This reminds me of a song that I wrote once... actually, the first song I ever wrote, except instead of using a real accordion it was a midi accordion. But of course this one's much better! It's a two-minute instrumental using a chugging accordion, and then mid-way through there an oboe and a tambourine joins in for the fun. It's not one of the “substantial” songs, but it does lend to diversity.

The Girl Who Waves At Trains A+

Yet ANOTHER song that really should have been heard on the college radio stations. Seriously, if this world were a fair and just place, this album would have had at least five hit singles. These guys make R.E.M. look like no-talent losers!!! (Oh... thems fighting words, right?... But hey, instead of beating me up, why don't you listen to this album and send me a well-reasoned e-mail about why that's wrong?) This is one of the upbeat, toe-tapping ones, and they instrument it lushly with more acoustic guitars and some very pretty back-up singers. Some synth-horns groove around occasionally gives it an extra festive atmosphere to it.

The Last to Know A

This is a pleasantly paced and laid back tune with a summertime atmosphere, soft vocal performance, and a melody that's both sweet and catchy. The instrumentation once again is totally nailed, keeping the jangly and watery guitars intact that supplemented with a light synthesizer playing a texture in the background. Once again, this sounds wonderful.

Father Mother Wife and Child A

This is a very long drawn out and slow folk ballad with some nicely poetic lyrics (“You'll have many roles to play / Some you'll lose and some will stay / But you can't escape from those / That you cannot choose / The earth revolves around the sun / Infinity has just begun / And we're bound to wonder why / Like a baby born to cry”) It's the only song of the lot that I have a tendency to space out to, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. The melody is still extremely good though. I'm trying to picture this on a '70s Paul Simon album, and this would surely be the highlight of it and probably be critically acclaimed to the point of strangulation. Why are these guys not famous, again? Of course it's sung well and played well with a thoughtfully strummed guitar and a banjo playing a few patterns deeply in the background. By the time the chorus comes along some crunchy strings, which play a crunchy texture. There is also an interesting “stabbing” sound I hear from the guitars in the chorus. ...This might be my least favorite song here just for the six-and-a-half minute length.

The Rollercoaster Song A

Oh yeah... No doubt, another solid A. This is one of the upbeat songs that would have sounded excellent on the radio. The melody is catchy and wonderfully breezy, and the instrumentation is upbeat and entirely enjoyable. As you'd probably expect by now, they orchestrate it with some jangly guitar, toe-tapping drum beat, and a bouncy bass guitar. In the final third, they treat us to some hand claps that sounds like they were playing an early Beatles song. ...Does it really get more pleasant than this?

Work For the Weekend A+

Why, this song is extremely pleasant, too! I feel like I'm repeating myself all the time, but this melody is wonderful and a total joy to listen to. The instrumentation continues to be extremely well done, keeping a very breezy texture. In the chorus, some thick back-up singers come in as well as some textural synth-strings, which create a terrifically uplifting experience. Duffy's vocal performance is extremely sweet and friendly. I mean, how can you not want to invite the guy over for lunch at your house after hearing him sing this?

Twilight Beer Hall

A forty second, twinkly piano solo that just fades in and out. I guess they didn't want to flesh it out to a full song, or something. Kind of a shame, because I think something very nice could have arisen from it... I can almost imagine the sort of melody they'd come up for it...


& Love For All (1990)

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& Love For All

Fields A-

Well, the change is a little bit stark, isn't it? Lilac Time's earlier albums had been folky, minimal and sweet, but this song is thickly produced! At its core it's like a good old Lilac Time song with sweet vocals, a nice melody, but the production is lusher and sweet. The riff is played with what sounds like a pan flute, and high-pitched and rumbly synthesizer. It's all mixed quite well. Duffy's vocals still sound like they've always sounded—airy and friendly—but the producers have put a layering effect on them, so it sounds like there's a whole choir of Stephen Duffy's backing him up! Me likey, me likey! I suppose the reason for the A- is because the hook, while strong, is on the repetitive side. ...I also know that there are better songs on this album, so I'm not gonna play my big cards yet...

Fields (Reprise)

After the previous track faded out, they fade it back in for about a minute altering the groove such that it sounds like it's played backwards. I'm not sure why they felt the desire to do this, but I won't complain about it.

All for Love and Love for All A+

See? I was waiting for now to dish out my big guns. This melody is excellent, and the production standards completely put it over the top. It's hard to explain, but there's a really cool rumbly instrument playing deeply in the background that gives it a neat texture. Other than that, there's some jangly guitars, twinkly pianos in the background, and more of that excellent reverb effect put on Duffy's vocals. The chorus is catchy, the verses are catchy, and the middle-eight is a great diversion. In other words, this is about as perfect of a pop song as you're going to get.

Let Our Land Be the One A

For some reason, these are the sorts of songs I like hearing the most from Stephen Duffy: It's an earthly song with just his voice and acoustic guitar. There aren't any huge production tricks done here other than a lovely reverb effect on both the acoustic guitar and the vocals, which of course makes it atmospheric without distracting us from what's important. He's singing a folk song that sound like it's suited for the foggy atmosphere of England. It's beautiful!

I Went to the Dance A-

With these guys, the difference between an A- and an A+ song is almost negligible. Duffy's songwriting is some of the most consistent I've ever heard out of anybody. He might not bring on a string of hook after hook like “Dancing Queen,” but you can always expect at least one good hook in his songs and usually more. This mid-tempo pop song is no exception. The producer went a bit far in my opinion bringing on a wobbly synthesizer effect midway through, which I'm not convinced really suits it. Nevertheless, that's just a nitpick! The bass guitars are deep and crunchy and as always I love that Duffy's vocals have so much body to them!

Wait and See A

Unlike the previous song, this is one where the goofy production actually helped create a very cool experience. As always, Duffy writes an airy melody that would have sounded great with just an acoustic guitar... But no, they decided to do something extra cool with it. It starts out with a thumpy bass before they start laying on jangly acoustic guitars, horn-synth fan fares, bendy organ chords, full scale pounding drums. Maybe the textures are a little too quirky for their own good so I doubt this will blow anyone away. But it's not quite like anything I've heard before, and it's very cool!

Honest to God A

It's a minute and a half long, and it's an airy, sort of heavenly choir. Duffy and an entire choir of Duffys (or people who sound like him) sing a pretty melody in a pompous fashion. There's a bendy organ that plays throughout it, which makes the whole experience sound off kilter... Like I somehow managed to use some sort of instrument that allows me listen into whatever the angels happen to singing in heaven at the time. Kind of cool.

The Laundry A+

Indeed. Leave it to me to award all the A+s to the straightforward pop songs... But then again, is anyone going to argue with me? This guy seems like he could write a pop hook as easily as Shakespeare could write a sentence. This friendly, upbeat pop song is one of the sweetest things I've ever heard that seems to be about how things were like when we were kids. (“Walk with me in the moonlight / Hear the freight trains roll / From another life / Remember your bedroom ceiling / Remember those old patterned curtains / When you were sleeping / Don't worry who will see ”) The melody is something that gets nicely stuck in my head, and the production is perfect. More of that enhancing, reverb effect on Duffy's vocals, and they're sure to keep the acoustic guitars and drums sounding crisp. This is a brilliant listen.

Paper Boat A

Oh man... here's another one of his beautiful acoustic folk songs that I can just eat up. There's something about this guy and gentle, jangly folk music that seems like they were made for each other. The instrumentals are quite a bit lusher than they were in “Let Our Land Be the One,” but you almost wouldn't notice since the background piano, extra guitars, and slide guitar are very gentle in the background. Of course it's all perfectly suited to his singing style! The melody, as always, is brilliantly catchy. Given a few more listens, I'm positive I'll get the urge to start singing along with it. It's really easy to take this to heart.

Skabaskiblio A-

An instrumental! A ninety-second piano solo! From what I've gathered, Nick Duffy is the one largely responsible for these, and his instrumentals have a sort of blocky texture to them. The theme he plays isn't too bad, but at the same time I'm never really itching to hear this again. Ah well... as a segue piece between pop songs, it's quite alright.

It'll End in Tears (I Won't Cry) A

Oh man, I really struck the goldmine with this band, haven't I? It's just one excellent pop song after another. The verses section is a little bit slow, but once the chorus pipes up, my eyes really brighten up. Duffy's vocals are layered wonderfully thickly, and the horn and string synthesizers play a few excellent things. Naturally, since this album is superbly produced, they keep on subtly layering on instrumentals in the mix and by the end of it, even that slow verses section sounds exciting to me.

Trinity A-

I'm looking for any excuse in the book for giving a song a B+, and this one gets close... But it's an earnest piano ballad with a well-thought-out melody, so how could I do that? The piano chords are a little blocky, but “Skabaskiblio” introduced us to that style if we weren't familiar with it already. Halfway through, there's an atmospheric organ/synthesizer that starts mimicking the piano chords, which makes the whole thing seem quite nice for me to slip into. It's a very nice song!

And On We Go A+

I love these guys' bubbly pop songs, and I also love it when these guys write more serious fodder. This is one of their more serious songs, and it's one of those songs that I can immediately take to heart after the first minute plays. The forlorn melody is beautiful, and Duffy singing in the deeper registers of his vocals (which aren't that deep), and I completely buy that he believes everything he sings. (“On and on and on we go / Where we're going we don't know / We'll find out tomorrow / If we find out at all / On and on and on we go / Woven in a great tableau / A winding tune on an old banjo / You heard when you were small / Still goes on for us all”) The instrumentation is atmospheric/folky like their previous two albums were... Not anything against the pop production, but in this case the producers must have realized it was best to just let the band sit back and do their thing unhindered with fancy production techniques.

Fields (Acoustic Return)

This is a one-minute-long variation of “Fields” that slowly fades in and then fades out, which reminds me of some celebratory gypsy music. This sounds like the work of Brother Nick, but I could be wrong about that. (It's doubtful, though... since I'm never wrong about anything.)


Astronauts (1991)

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Astronauts

In Iverna Gardens A

If you've been following the progression of Lilac Time so far, you should know that they entered a sort of pop phase in their previous album thanks partly to the production styles of John Leckie and Andy Partridge. Those two producers might not be here, but that fact doesn't stop these songs from continuing in that pop vein. The production is ultra smooth, dreamy, and easily digestible. The guitars are watery, the drums are crispy, and a piano and mild synthesizer arpeggio provide some background decoration. ...Now, who says smooth production is a bad thing? Especially when we have Stephen Duffy and his incredible knack of writing interesting melodies to contend with? The verses are just as catchy as the chorus. A song like this ought to have been played on the radio.

Hats Off, Here Comes the Girl A

Giving all these Lilac Time songs such high ratings seems a bit like I'm washing over things and not properly singling out the strongest moments of the disc... But holy crap, what am I supposed to do when every song is a strong moment? This one has a psychedelic flavor to it, amidst the bubbly guitars and airy melody, I hear what's probably a synthesizer playing bendy notes that sounds like one of the sitars from a late-period Beatles album. The melody is bubbly, and the production makes perfect use of Duffy's soft and friendly vocals... As it was so nicely throughout the previous album!

Fortunes B+

Oh why only the B+, you ask? …I suppose because it's a slower ballad, and those are intrinsically less enjoyable to me than the upbeat, jangly ones. Songs like this usually have to make up for that somehow, either through melody or atmosphere or preferably both. This one nails the melody, as always, and the atmosphere is pretty good. There are several acoustic guitars playing nice arpeggio patterns around, and there's some atmospheric instruments (slide guitar?) playing bendy, angelic notes in the background. ...I just have trouble getting into it, I'm afraid. It's not much more complicated than that!

A Taste of Honey A

Ah yes, here's more of what I like. A song with a shuffly drum rhythm and echoey back-up singing. The chorus is one of those chorus that forever gets caught in my head the first time I listen to it. It seems like this song should have been featured on a movie from the early '70s. (I know people from that era got tired of this Carpenters-esque pop music being everywhere, but why not make room for a band that knew what it was doing? I mean, this song is beautiful!) The instrumentation continues to be nicely atmospheric; by the end of the song, those tinkly acoustic guitars start to flurry. The soft-pop Lilac Time are getting it on! ...I hear a bass guitar playing a groove that sounds familiar to me (“Twist and Shout?”).

Grey Skies and Work Things A

Like “Fortunes,” this is a low-key ballad. However, unlike “Fortunes,” I'm able to get myself into this. (I can't explain it! This song just captures me whereas the previous one didn't.) The melancholy acoustic guitars sound beautiful when they're coupled with Duffy's immersible melody that's sung with his lovely and soft vocal chords. I haven't done a very good job highlighting the lyrics in this album, and rest assured they are as beautiful as they always are in Lilac Time albums. (“Walking home after work / All the streets are full / Tonight I'll see you / At the cinema / I hear a tune played on church bells ring / A song that the angels could sing / But I know what tomorrow will bring / Grey skies and work things / When the sun begins to set / There's something in the light / That makes you shudder / And makes you think you can hear.”) ...Aren't those something?

Finistere A+

I like this song even more than the others, which I seemed to have nothing but endless praise for! This is one of those songs that might not seem like anything special in the first few seconds that it starts to play, but then it creeps on you. When it starts, somehow it sounds like something from a musical, like Jesus Christ Superstar. The harmonies/chord progressions are beautiful, and I love hearing those arpeggiated guitar patterns the band comes out with. Duffy's sleepy and soft vocals sound as nice as ever, and his melody line has plenty of hooky twists to it. Halfway through it, I can subtly hear a piano joining in, which builds things up. ...Man!! Why aren't these guys more popular? I've asked that question plenty of times, and it seems appropriate to ask the question yet again.

Dreaming A-

I'm not too sure why he did it, but he uses the exact same riff here as he used for “In Iverna Gardens.” ...But other than that, it's a completely different song! Here, he's sort of returning to his electro-pop/drum-machine roots, from his Tin-Tin days. ...I might not have been the biggest fan of his early albums, but those albums were nice enough that I'll gladly welcome the occasional electro-pop song on his albums. (Besides, maybe it might have caught on with the kids?) To help it fit in with the album more nicely, I still hear some of that dreamy guitar in the background. Somehow, it's produced in a way that Duffy's sleepy and dreamy vocals sound quite fitting for it. ...Then again, I suppose Duran Duran did these sorts of songs brilliantly in the '90s!

The Whisper of Your Mind A+

But as soon as the synth-pop is over, I'm glad to get back to the folk-pop! (Hey, it's what I like! What is better to me than a nice strummy strummy acoustic guitar, upbeat organic drumming, and a catchy melody? NOTHING. Pretty much.) And I'm repeating myself over and over and over again in these song reviews, but what can I do when I'm talking about a songwriter who is as consistent as this? The melody is breezy, loveable, and catchy—the verses are immersible and the chorus is something that I want to sing along with. The instrumental textures are organic and gentle. It's a summery sort of song, and it's wonderful! YET AGAIN!!

The Darkness of Her Eyes A-

The previous song was a pop song and this is a ballad. (Those who are used to only listening to dance music might consider this a slower ballad, or something.) But here he is singing a nice, whispery melody to a few gently arpeggiating acoustic guitars. The melody isn't memorable so much as it's something nice to sit back and soak up. Though it does have a few good hooks in its own right. Once again, the lyrics are just as pretty as the music itself. ( “I can't see beyond today / Can't think about what if the sun stays down / I believe it never has before / There may be less between us than we thought / May be less between us and the lord / Let nothing come between us / Nothing nothing nothing”)

Sunshine's Daughter A+

Oh man, here's another one of those songs that makes my ears pique up every time I run across it. Its vibes are warm and summery and—I say this at least once per 10 sentences—the melody is flipping awesome. It's perhaps not a melody as instantly catchy as a Paul McCartney tune, but it's so warm and folksy that I can immediately take it to heart. Duffy's vocals are also perfect in the mix; his soft vocals are a perfect match for the instrumentation. Yet another wonderful song that I think should get played on the radio. (Seriously, commandeer a radio station and play this song over the waves before a police squad tear gasses you out.)

North Kesington A

With these classic Lilac Time albums, some songs are more treasurable than others, but pretty much every song is treasurable in some respect. (Do all four of you who are reading this think I'm working on Stephen Duffy's PR department? Hell, maybe I wouldn't mind such a gig...) This is a folksy song that's pretty close to the vein of their debut album; there's Duffy strumming away at his acoustic guitar, and someone supplements him with what I assume is a recorder. The atmosphere is thick and lovely, making me think of those countryside shots of all those BBC television shows that I watch.

Madresfield A-

They're letting their album go out, almost literally, with a whisper, but what a pleasant whisper! It comes across as an afterthought, and Duffy sings in a particularly quiet voice. Of course, even in a song that's probably “insignificant,” he can't resist coming up with a nice chord progression and an interesting melody. The multiple acoustic guitars arpeggiates in an arresting manner and with plenty of reverb.

BONUS TRACKS:

Holy Man Jam A-

So it seems that I've managed to land a Lilac Time album with bonus tracks! (Hurrah!) This is a sort of stiff instrumental, the likes of which we've heard plenty of times in their albums, which are mostly headed by Nick Duffy. Not one of my favorites of his, since the textures don't immediately get to me. Nonetheless, it isn't without its folksy charm. I especially like hearing that weird, poundy keyboard that surfaces in there.

A Darling Who Can't Wait to Taste You A-

Most of these bonus tracks aren't as well-produced as the ones on the main album, but that doesn't mean they're not worth hearing! In fact, they're about as well-written as anything. The guitar is strummed in a very simple manner, but Duffy's singing continues to sound rather ethereal over it, singing these arresting long-drawn-out notes amidst a captivating chord progression.

Ghetto Child A

According to the CD cover, this is a demo! And yet, it's not any less interesting than those heavily produced ones from the main album. Of course, as you know, these guys were well-versed in folk music, so just hearing these guys sing with a simple acoustic guitar is always a treat. Maybe I even prefer this sort of song to the others? I sound like a broken record, but this melody is beautiful.

Galaxy A

Once again, how is this even possible? A song this pretty not given the full studio treatment? Gee... Unlike the previous track, however, I think this might have worked better if it were produced more fully. Although as a loose folk song, it certainly isn't without its charm. It features a twinkly riff played with a thoughtful acoustic guitar as Duffy sings yet another one of his memorable melodies.

An Ear for Silent Voices A-

This one was probably best as a laid-back folk song; its final version probably should have been little different than this. And you know what? YET AGAIN, I eat this song up. The melody is gorgeous. The lyrics are thoughtful. (The hydrogen and helium / Exploding in the dark / From hydrogen and helium / To incandescent gas / And long lost in the limelight / The souls that came to pass / Long lost like the limelight / Poisoned by the tide / Of our three minute culture / Loves young dream died / In our three minute culture / Infertility / No ears for silent voices / And all they can set free.”)

She is All Colour B+

A bouncy, blocky piano plays, which sounds partly like he was going for a sort of Broadway show tune. Unfortunately, I suppose I don't care much for the sound of that piano, but at least the melody continues to be good. (What else would it be?) This is probably the least airborne song of the bunch, but it's hard for me not to still like it. There's a little bit of orchestral mayhem at the end, sounding like they took a bunch of soundbytes from classical songs and faded them in and out of their own synthesizer tones. (I only recognize “Fur Elise,” because I am a cultural ignoramus.)

C'est La Vie C'est La Guerre B+

French stuff! Why do English people like French things all of the sudden? Did they forget about the 100 Years' War so quickly? Anyway, despite the French title, this song is in English, and it's also another loose folk song. I also think this would have sounded better with a little extra production, particularly with some sort of atmospheric synth-scape. Nonetheless, I like the melody anyway, and it fits Duffy's soft vocal styling quite well!


Music in Colors (1993)

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Music in Colors

It Sparkles! A

Yay! Sparkly things! ...Who doesn't like sparkly things? ...No real man doesn't like sparkly things... Stephen Duffy is also really getting into it with that elaborate string intro that sounds like some sort of gypsy after taking a hit of acid. After that point, Duffy launches himself into a pleasant pop song that... er... doesn't sound a whole lot different than the previous Lilac Time album. Oh well. He can sound as much like that album as he very well pleases! The melody is sweet, and that gypsy violin gives it character. The chorus kind of pops out at you like you're reading a pop-up book. Somehow, this guy is always able to do that. Other than the violin, the rhythm and instrumentation is very much pop music. There's the '90s sounding drum machines and somewhat mechanical bass part. ...It's like he's combining The Lilac Time with his Tin Tin material.

Transitoire I

I'm not sure why, but Duffy put a bunch of these in here. These brief instrumental passages in between songs. ...Although this one's kind of nice. It's just the gypsy violinist going at it for about a minute, and he/she is pretty good. (Or maybe calling it “gypsy” isn't correct, because it also sounds like that beardy dude from Fiddler on the Roof. Oh well... Like I ever know what to call things anyway.)

Natalie A+

Now this should have been a massive radio hit. It's the sort of song that grabs my attention the second it starts playing and never, ever, lets me off its grasp. The melody is breezy and 1000 percent memorable. It still plays in my head hours after I'm through listening to it. The instrumentation is quite up to date for the '90s... polished drums, polished vocals... very much it would sound nice on the radio. The rhythm, taken on by a happy bass and what sounds like pizzicato strings, are among the bubbliest thing I've ever heard. Apart from the melody, I'd have to say the best thing about this song is an oftentimes rumbly string section that weaves itself in and out of it. Really, really pretty. It came with a good music video, too!

Transitoire II

Alright, usually I have one or two negative things to say about these sorts of segues that only last a minute and seem like they were only designed to make the track listening seem more impressive... Holy crap, this one's actually pretty good. Very Middle Eastern sounding this time. I hear a woman warbling off amidst some mystical instrumentation. It all generates quite a compelling atmosphere. ...And what's more, it's a rather awesome intro to the following tune...

She Wants to Share Her Magic A

If it wasn't clear by now, then here it is: Stephen Duffy is writing adult contemporary music in hopes of making it on the radio. ...Well, his Duran Duran brethren did such a thing in the '90s and made it big, so why not Duffy? ...The world sucks, what can I say? This is another enjoyable and tuneful song with polished instrumentation and a nice, toe-tapping beat. He's using drum machines—or if it's live drumming, then it's very polished—but they always seem to suit the atmosphere instead of sounding canned, which is what many-an-adult-contemporary band sounded around that era. Best of all, I continue to love listening to those violins weaving themselves in and out of the mix. Particularly at the beginning of this song where they develop a rather thick atmosphere.

Transitoire III

Beginning to notice a pattern? One again, I'm having a hard time believing that these transition pieces are actually good. I seem to remember something similar in an Apples in Stereo album that served as little more than distractions. But here, the violins create a very thick and rather pretty atmosphere. It only lasts 45 seconds, and it manages to lead right into the following song...

Music in Colors B

Oh yes... the token song on a Stephen Duffy album that I don't care a whole heck of a lot for. Although it still makes a nice listen. He's still going off on his adult contemporary phase with tight and polished drumming and mechanical bass guitar. I also still hear those rather elaborate string arrangements trembling and scaling all around this song and never in the same way. The main vocal melody is nicely written. ...But, geez, this song is loooooooong. It clocks in at more than seven minutes. And to be perfectly honest, I don't think it was the world's greatest thing at four minutes. ...But anyway, when I have this thing on in the background, I of course still find it a pleasant experience.

Galaxy A

Remember that last Lilac Time album I reviewed? Well, here's a studio version of one of the demos that I listened to! (...yaaaayyyy...) Also, why wasn't there a transition piece between this song and the last? Maybe we're supposed to flip our vinyl over right now? I dunno. I also said in that track review, I wished the song were given more fully fleshed studio treatment instead of sounding so much like a loose folk song. ...Well, this is still a loose folk song. There's just a mild bongo percussion added to it and just a tiny amount of pop-corning violin with more fully fleshed strings coming at the end. The melody still rules, of course!

Transitoire IV

We're really starting to test our ability to understand Roman numerals, aren't we? ...And geez, they're really going to down on this one. It starts out with some sitars plucking around and more of those Middle Eastern singers. By the end of the track, there are violins going nutty all over the place in a manner that I might just call avant-garde.

Totem B+

Just a nice song. Do you want to hear anything more? It doesn't make quite the impression on me that a song like “Natalie” does, but it's a pleasant ditty just to sit back and tap your foot to. The melody doesn't do much to ingrain itself in my brain. The violin arrangements are nice, but by this time, I'm so used to them that I've nearly stopped noticing them. The breezy melody, as always, is pretty.

Transitoire V

Well here's a Transitoire that doesn't seem to fit at all. It doesn't bleed from the previous song and nor does it seem to follow into the next. It's even more avant-garde than the last one, sort of creating an ambient texture that sounds like a wussier version of a Brian Eno album in the late '70s. Eh.

Hotie End Hotel A

Now, this is one of the songs I go out of this album still keeping locked in my cranium. As I've said before in songs that contain pronounced bass-lines... They're AWESOME. Even when they're just playing single, thumpy notes. But of course, the bass has to work throughout Duffy's lovely chord progression, so there you go. I said in “Totem” that the violins were so present in all these songs that I've stopped noticing them. But, here, the violin just piqued my interest again. It not only plays a memorable riff in a vaguely Middle Eastern manner, but it noodles around in some distinctly wild ways. ...Of course, the main melody is catchy and, if it were a fair world, would've had Top 40 radio hit single on it. (Although I think maybe that violin... and later on a flailing rubbery electric guitar... might have just been too weird for the radio.)

Transitoire VI

Is it just me or are these segues becoming more and more useless as the album drags on. They're also getting less and less musical, which doesn't help. This is a bunch of screechy static noise.

Charlotte's Conversation A+

Wow. There are about 10,000,000 reasons why this song rules. In other words, there's nothing about it that doesn't rule. It also rules in ways that I've never heard Stephen Duffy rule before. Of course the catchy melody, arresting atmosphere, and beautiful violin are gimmes. The chorus pops out at you like a 3D movie. It also starts in a forlorn manner, which we've heard him succeed with flying colors many-a-time. However, has one of his forlorn songs ever turned into an uplifting instrumental with bit of funk guitar before? And his guitaring is amazingly good. Seriously great. Is that even Duffy playing that guitar? ...This album isn't famous enough for this to have been documented in a convenient manner. ...I do hear two guitarists, anyway.

Transitoire VII

Well, the transition pieces were a nice idea at the beginning of the album and they proved to do a few interesting things, but here they've completely run out of steam. I've told myself that I'm not letting these take away from my overall impression of the album, but … well this thing only got a 12 didn't it, so you never know? (In case you haven't noticed, I don't take much personal responsibility to album ratings that I dish out.)

A Fall From the Sky A-

It must be one of Stephen Duffy's favorite things to end his albums with a whisper, which is exactly what he does here with this very low-key folk song. It's just him singing along with an acoustic guitar at the start until that trusty violin arrangement comes in mid-way through. This isn't the most captivating sort of folk song that he's ever done, but it does have a pleasant melody and an even pleasanter vocal delivery. ...As if we'd expect anything less!


Duffy (1995)

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Duffy

London Girls A

Well, ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for another bout of intense worship... As I've been saying all along, Stephen Duffy is without a doubt one of the most consistent songwriters of all time. Why should he stop now? I would classify this song as power-pop since it's characterized by a pounding drum and a gruff little electric guitar riff (that's quite similar to Bowie's “Jean Jeanie”), but the melody of course is catchy and whispy and delivered airily from Duffy. There is a chorus of crazed la-lahs at the end of this, which was a nice touch. All in all, this is a foot-tappingly good time.

Sugar High A+

Oh man... Why do I get the feeling that I'm overrating this guy? But listen to this pretty, Beatles-esque pop melody delivered with a lovely cloud of jangly electric guitars and tell me this doesn't deserve an A! Man... Not only is the main melody crispy delicious, but there's even a middle-eight section that's nearly as appealing as the main melody. When a pop song has a pretty great middle-eight section (or even a middle-eight section at all), we know we're pretty well off. This thing is a treat from beginning to end.

She Freak A-

He's breaking out a highly pitched and jinglier electric guitar for this one (that gives us a tone very similar to “Norwegian Wood”). I definitely love the sound of this and the melody is good, but I don't find it as appealing as the previous two songs! But it's at least close. The instrumentation picks up steam in interesting ways by the end with some noisy Velvet-Underground-ish distorted guitar, a shuffly drum beat, and hand-claps. Although unlike the previous two songs, I don't think I'll be singing this song underneath my breath this week!

Needle Mythology A

Well... After criticizing the previous song for not being catchy enough, here Stephen Duffy comes along with a melody that couldn't be catchier. As a matter of fact, maybe this is too catchy? (The hooks almost seem lazy, if that makes any sense... Well, this melody isn't on par with a Beatles classic or anything.) The instrumentation continues to be jangly and beautiful, so you can expect this to be another breezy classic.

A Child is Waiting A-

This song starts out a bit slow as a ballad with a melody that doesn't quite make it for me. However, when that chorus pops up around the two-and-a-half-minute mark, it completely validates the song's previous slowness. Besides, songs like this can only get better the more you listen to it. The jangly guitars are peppered lightly with some atmospheric, distorted electric guitars and... very subtly toward the end... I hear some beautiful violins. This might not excite me like earlier songs in this album did, but I nevertheless find it fetching!

The Kids in Every Corner A

I know I say a variation of this in all of Duffy's track reviews, but holy crap, how is this guy able to write such consistently good melodies? I mean, this song starts off strong, progresses to a chorus that's elevated well off the ground, and a kind of electrifying instrumental interlude. (And that guitar is kind of gruff, too! Well, this is Stephen Duffy so the song still manages to be wholly pleasant despite that guitar flailing all over the place.) Whoah!

Ghetto Child A

I have a REALLY awful memory, and it's been quite awhile since I reviewed Astronauts (and I haven't listened to that album since I reviewed it either). And yet I immediately remembered that I had heard this song in Duffy's discography before. So I guess that must mean these songs make an impact on me! ...And no, Duffy isn't re-recording Lilac Time songs; this appeared in the bonus tracks of Astronaut in demo form. Although it turns out, there didn't need to be much of a gap between the “demo” and “finalized” forms since all that's required is a strummy acoustic guitar and a haunting melody sung by this whispy voiced singer. In short, this thing is beautiful!

Starfit A

After a kind of lengthy melancholy ballad, it's just like Stephen Duffy to follow that up with one of the album's brightest pop-rockers. This is so upbeat that I'd be pretty tempted to classify this as power-pop. The guitars are rough though poppy, the percussion is laden with some bubbly hand-claps, and the melody is so catchy that I get the urge to sing along with it. (And then I get frustrated, because I don't know this album nearly well enough to start singing along with it... But I'll get there one day!) Indeed, this song is fun, and that's why it's brilliant.

Mr. 20th Century Man A

I feel like a Mr. 20th Century Man, since it seems like I spend all my time listening to and worshiping 20th Century music... a habit that I'll almost certainly bring with me into my old age. ...Oh yes, you've guessed it. Here's another brilliantly catchy and enjoyable pop-rocker. Duffy continues to be using that poppy electric guitar, which I suppose is the one element that keeps this separate from his earlier releases. (Sometimes, songs that sound like that were catapulted into hits in the '90s. Why no hits for Stephen Duffy?)

Rachel A

Well, I guess you can't get too far in a post-Tin Tin Stephen Duffy record without getting more than a few tastes of country-western! But of course this is the good kind of country-western. Jangly, shuffley, organic, and catchy. In other words, Toby Keith never once got it right. ...With that said, I'm not sure what the deal is with those laser sound effects at the end of this song, which come about a bit abruptly. But anyway... Let's let the guy goof around every once in awhile!

Smitten B+

Here's the last of the songs on the normal album... The rest of this are bonus tracks generously provided to us in the 2005 reissue of this album. But anyway, he chose to close it with one of the more interesting songs of the lot. (And when I say “interesting,” that usually is a coded word for “not the best.” That is true, but I still like this!) It's sort of a sprawling love ballad that starts out slowly but builds up to a loud part with thunderous drums, heavy guitars, and thickly layered violins. It's a good song, but let's say that—for once in this album—I'm really not smitten with the melody nor the presentation.

BONUS TRACKS:

You, Me & God A+

And, once again, I have to pose the obvious question: How can Stephen Duffy write great songs like this that are only destined for the bonus tracks sections of his albums? Moreover, these songs are as good—if not better—than the average quality of songs on the real album. The melody is beautiful and Duffy delivers it smoothly and just about as pleasantly as humanly possible. The instrumentation is simple with pleasantly strummed acoustic guitar, some George-Harrison-esque contributions from the electric guitar, and some heavy strings that come in by the end. Who wouldn't like this?

The Waitress Story A-

This song, on the other hand, I might understand why he left it off the album! But if he did leave it on the album, it wouldn't have been the worse for it. (And the fact that it exists as a bonus track is—well—a bonus.) This is a bittersweet ballad with melancholy violins and a melody sweetly delivered.

The Girl of the Year A

Why am I still amazed? It's obvious by now that Duffy has sweet, unpretentious melodies flowing out of him like running water, and of course the taste to instrument them unpretentiously with simply strummed acoustic guitars and drums. (With just a touch of recorders in the background to give it more distinction.) It's catchy and immensely enjoyable to listen to.

A Vision of Bliss A

ANOTHER ONE!!! More of that pop-rock bliss. ...I wonder if the main reason these albums aren't more popular is because they're far too good. I mean, who wants an album full of great pop songs without any mediocrity whatsoever so that the great songs would seem like they POP OUT more? That explains Madonna's popularity! (I still can remember how boring it was sitting through Erotica, which I assume Madonna did on purpose to make “Deeper and Deeper” sound better.) But keep on giving me this poppy guitar-rock sound! Please! The guitar makes stabs this time in a way that makes it sound like Rubber Soul-era Beatles. And the melody, while not quite being as golden as a Beatles tune, is nonetheless very catchy and—as always—Duffy's vocal performance is utterly loveable.

Sugar High (Slow Version) A

Yeah, it's maybe a few microseconds slower than the version that appeared on the real album! But whatever. I usually skip repeat songs on bonus tracks, but I just can't with a song like this. It makes me so happy!

Jane A

Does it really have to end? Sometimes I get a bit fatigued when I review albums with a lot of songs on it, but I really don't run across albums like a whole lot where EVERY SINGLE SONG is a massive delight. Maybe that's why the world as a whole has failed to embrace Stephen Duffy? People like suffering too much. Oh well, to all the people that these pleasant, guitar-centered pop songs have been endlessly entertained, we can be happy these things exist. (And to everyone else, holy hell! What's stopping you! Let me take you to the sunny side!)


I Love My Friends (1998)

Read the full review:
I Love My Friends

Tune In

As the title probably suggests, this song consists of someone tuning into a radio. Only, I guess, every song on every station is from Stephen Duffy's then-16-year career. It's sort of interesting for me to hear all these sounds, since I'm reviewing these albums in order, after all!

Eucharist A

Next, this song seems to give us an idea of how Duffy's career got started, although I don't get a clear picture of what he's describing after the first few stanzas! Anyway, it's autobiographical. (He might never have made millions and millions of dollars, but at least he seems grateful that he's getting paid, as he states he was born in poverty.) But what am I doing talking about the lyrics? It's the melodies that always matter, and Duffy never, ever lets us down in those regards. Why would he let us down now, especially as he is in such a reflective state? The electric guitars are gruffer than I'm used to--even gruffer than they were in Duffy, but this is still pure pop through-and-through. The melody is simple, but it's hooky and even has a few interesting Beatles-esque hooks. The beat is infused with subtle hand-claps, which I have an impossible time saying "no" to, and then there's some spirited harmonica infused within the groove at the very end.

17 A+

Not only is Duffy in a reflective state of his career, but this song appears to be about a romance he had in his teenage years... who he eventually cheated on. Well, maybe he feels bad about that in retrospect? Or maybe he misses his tender years? But anyway, who cares about the lyrics when we have yet another phenomenally catchy pop-rock tune? This is another Beatles-esque tune with an upbeat pace, catchy riff, and melody that you can sing along to. Really, this is exceptional fun!

Lovers Beware A

Another one? Maybe at some point, maybe I should stop being so amazed at this guy's penchant for writing memorable tunes! (And yet more evidence on the pile that *you* should listen to him, if you care about pop-rock even just a little bit.) He's continuing to use heavy-ish electric guitars, which goes to show that anyone who likes power-pop songs should take notice of it. The hooks are strong, and the vocals are sweet and friendly.

You Are A+

The weird thing about this song is that I don't particularly like it as it starts up. The guitar groove is a little too abrupt and repetitive... But then, the more I listen to it, the more I end up liking it. It's like the more it picks up steam, the more it flowers, and by the end, it's really something quite magical. You'd probably have to listen to it to hear what I'm talking about! As always, the verses and the chorus are very strong, and I like that soft and friendly way Duffy delivers the vocals.

The Deal A

Once again, he seems to hit all the right buttons. This is more of a laid back tune with a shuffly drum beat and a gently arpeggiating acoustic guitar. Midway through I start to hear some husky violins seeping through the background. This is closer to the familiar sound of The Lilac Time, and thus, it'll be one his long-time admirers (or people who have at least listened to all his albums) would love to soak up like sitting in a warm bath.

She Belongs To All A

This sounds like a lost Henry Mancini song from a movie, which hits my soft-spot something fierce. (I hope I'm not the only child of the '80s who likes watching hip films from the '60s.) The rhythm makes me want to pick up a glass of champagne and do a slow dance with Claudia Cardinale. There's even a sly-sounding flute playing around the groove, and Duffy sounds just slightly like he's delivering a classic Bond tune. (But of course, his voice continues to be soft and friendly.)

Autopsy A

It should be against the rules for Stephen Duffy to put out an album without a ballad like this on it. It's very slow and heavy handed, but it's also quite beautiful and even quite uplifting by the end thanks to a string section that subtly starts to swell up midway through. (As we all know, it's easy for string sections to get too overblown, but these ones are in the background never for a second overshadowing those beautifully strummed guitars.) The forlorn melody, as always, is touchingly delivered.

What If I Fell in Love With You A

Of course, a slow song on a Stephen Duffy album is always followed up with one of the album's most upbeat tunes. At this point the practice is so predictable, but I wouldn't have it any other way! ...Man, and this album—just like all his albums—are so dang consistent that I struggle to find new things to write by the time I make it this far in one of his albums! There's a return of the heavy-ish electric guitars here, and they play a rubbery rhythm. The bass-guitar and the bubbly, hand-clap-laden rhythm DARE me not to tap my foot to them. As always, the melody is catchy and Beatles-esque equally in its verses and chorus sections.

Something Good A+

These high-playful electric guitar stabs sound a lot like The Beatles' “Getting Better,” but of course the melody is a whole lot different! But if you put this catchy and flowing melody next to any Beatles tune, it'll definitely hold its own. (Hey, that's how serial I am about Duffy being a great songwriter... If he put that crazy diversity in his albums that The Beatles did, then he'd just be one tiny notch below them.) Need I say that this is another CATCHY melody? Given a few more listens, I'll be singing along with this.

Twenty Three A+

Man! I'm 28, but I'm already feeling nostalgic for those days when I was 23. Five years from now, I'm going to be reading this review and feeling nostalgic for when I was 28. This whole linear-time thing God has us tied to really stinks. But anyway, as you might have surmised, this is another blatantly autobiographical song from Duffy. (Some of these others probably were... but they weren't as obvious as this.) And guess what? It's another gorgeous folk ballad. WHY ARE THESE MELODIES ALL SO BRILLIANT!!! I mean, it's simple and sweet, but that just hits the spot. The descending chord progression is handled wonderfully with an arpeggiating folk guitar. Half-way through I start to hear an electric organ starting to swell in the background. It's so nice!

The Postcard A

Well, here's another simple folk ballad. I was expecting an upbeat power-pop tune as per usual! But this is towards the end of the album, and if you've made it thus far, you're probably eager to take in everything he dishes out at you. Also, by far, this is the simplest song of the album: All that I hear is Duffy singing about him finding an old photograph of an old girlfriend to an acoustic guitar. (There is briefly a harmonica!) He's really going nuts with nostalgia lately, isn't he! (“I feel the past is closing in on my / I found an old photograph of me and Kimberly”)

One Day One of These F*cks Will Change Your Life A+

I might not be able to tell you why some of these other songs didn't become huge radio hits, but I think I can tell you why this one failed to chart. Nobody really knew how to pronounce “F*cks.” But Duffy ends the album with a sweeping pop song with a flowing melody, crunchy electric guitars, and a stringed section. Like so many other songs here, this has a melody that I'll probably be singing along with after a few listens from now.


I Love My Friends (1998)

Read the full review:
I Love My Friends

Salvation Song: A-

Sort of warm, sunny and sweet. It's not the world's most exciting song, but... there's a time for exciting songs and there's a time for slow, folky songs. It doesn't matter what you happen to be in the mood for at this moment; you should know you have this to go back to whenever your mood does come around to it. Just like all Duffy-related songs are, the melody is simple though catchy and loveable, and the acoustic-guitar-led instrumentation is organic. The vocals are soft and help makes this song even more likeable. But why only the A-? ...It's not as good as the songs that follow.

Nursery Walls A

Well, this is one of the better songs, and I'd imagine the main reason I think that is because of that absolutely dreammmmy slide guitar I hear echoing in the background. And it's also a waltz, and I like waltzes. The melody flows very nicely, meandering from a lovely verses section before capturing my psyche with that uplifting chorus. There's a female back-up singer contributing in the chorus, which I don't ever remember hearing in a Lilac Time song. It's a nice addition! Also, I think Duffy ended up marrying her. ...And just when I think this song is going to lose my attention span, they bring in a middle-eight section that is equally as lovely as the chorus. Beautiful song!

Dream That We All Share A+

This was the very first Stephen Duffy song I've ever become enamored with. It was the first of many! But I was off making some MEGA-MIX-TAPES with the expressed purpose of finding songs from people I've never heard of and... well, it didn't take me too long to discover that The Lilac Time was a band worth listening to. This is one of those songs that I just *liked* the split second it starts to play. There are some lighthearted guitars playing pretty arpeggios while that DREAMY slide guitar plays in the background. The melody is one of the best melodies I've ever heard. It sort of wanders like a good George Harrison song, which is probably one of the main aspects that attracted me to this! ...Anyway, this is beautiful. Listen to it today!

Day in the Night A

I admit, it took me awhile to get into this. Sometimes in an album where there's one song I REALLY like, some of the songs that surround it suffer. (I've been known to press the “back” button in the middle of this song just to listen to the previous one again.) But I've grown into this one like a good pair of underpants. It's definitely an interesting one in Duffy's discography as it sounds like there's the slightest Indian influence in this. (Could that have also been the George Harrison tip-off that I received when I listened to this album at first?) At any rate, the atmosphere is pretty amazing. It starts off with an acoustic guitar riff that seems quite pastoral but slightly mystical at the same time. Then, a pretty though especially simple vocal melody comes up. But around the two-minute mark, a very catchy melody pops up with that slide guitar! But after that, I start to hear someone talking in a weird language in the background with those vaguely Indian flavored atmospherics drowning everything out. It sounds like someone's playing a tambura somewhere. Anyway, interesting song!

I Won't Die For You A-

It's kind of weird... When this song starts, I think that *MAYBE* I've finally run into a Stephen Duffy melody that I can claim doesn't do much for me. But then he completely breaks away and gets into a part that just *GRABS ME*. That happens almost unexpectedly here. It's kind of amazing how that happens! ...Instrumentally, this isn't especially interesting, although I still like its graceful simplicity. You'd probably classify this as country music, since it consists of a quietly strummed acoustic guitar and a slide guitar in the background. It's not one of my favorite songs here, but I like it!

Broken Cloud A-

Every time I hear an instrumental, I assume that it was the brainchild of Nick Duffy. In fact, all his instrumentals sound like this: Sort of blocky but very homemade. His melodies aren't too bad, as I hear they are taken on simultaneously by a ringing acoustic guitar and an accordion. Sort of an interesting flavor, I'd say. I definitely don't prefer them to Stephen's pop songs, but they're nice to listen to. They're good music to listen to while you're eating homemade pie.

Family Coach A+

Here's another great tune for you to listen to peacefully in your backyard on a warm summer's day. Maybe after getting out of the family coach for a nice trip to the countryside? (Well, my family never had a coach, but this is a good soundtrack-song for those false memories. Except he starts singing about rocket ships.) As always, the melody is catchy, and it's warmly delivered by Duffy. The instrumentation consists of a gently arpeggiating acoustic guitar with an accordion playing whole chords in the background. The melody repeats itself, but like all good songs should, the instrumentation gets busier as it moves along. Definitely one of those songs that I like the more I listen to it.

Morning Sun A-

Uh oh! This song is probably the least eventful one of the bunch! Even more laidback than the stuff earlier that I said was laidback. Man, pushing boundaries! Maybe this song deserves a B+, since it's not particularly special, but I sort of like its uber-peacefulness. Besides, the melody is pretty good, as if Duffy could ever write an uninteresting melody. I even think I hear birds tweeting in the background, but I'm supposing those are faint fret noises.

All Over Again A-

So here's one reason why I don't think this album would be a great person for someone to start with The Lilac Time (even though it's where I happened to have started with them): There just aren't any fast songs on here. All their other albums had great songs you can dance to. But that aside, I still like this! This has a nice, light groove that you can bob your head to, if you're so inclined. I don't think Duffy's being as great with his melodies as he used to be, but this continues to be as pleasant as ever.

Back in the Car Park A+

Another slow song, but this ballad is one of those awe-inspiring things that he's been known to write. The bittersweet melody makes me think of walking around outside when it's late Fall when you can smell sort of smoky air and dead leaves. (Well! You might not think of the same thing, but at least I think this is evidence how evocative this song is!) I can't claim this album has a whole lot of variety, since this is orchestrated with country-fied, arpeggiated guitars and a haunting slide guitar. This is going to count against the album when I assign it an overall rating (it smells like a 12), but if you're into this, then nothing's going to get you out of it.

Mayfly Too A-

I think the A- is pretty much scrapes the bottom this album is ever going to get. I enjoy completely listening to everything on here, but there also seems to be a pretty clear distinction which songs are *excellent* and which songs *completely captivate me*. As usual, Duffy creates an entirely likable melody, and the band orchestrates it pleasantly with strummy acoustic guitars. ...There's even a slide guitar in here. I guess he's not much of one for variety these days!

Sleepy A-

Wow, this album is long! I guess the one good thing about music production getting so much cheaper by the time we got to the 21st Century was that these guys could put as many songs in their album as their hearts desired. But on the other hand, these aren't terribly exciting songs and they all kind of sound alike. It's nicely orchestrated with light, arpeggiated acoustic guitars, more of that dreamy slide guitar and Duffy's light singing.

Spirit Moves A

This is another instrumental that was surely written by Nick instead of Stephen. This one's quite nice, though. It sort of has a crusty, old sea shanty feel too it with a decent melody taken on by an accordion, and the acoustic band playing pretty arpeggios to a waltz rhythm. Midway through, the band makes some pretty “ahhhh” sounds. These sorts of songs, when done right, can make brilliant listens. And this one's done right.

Reunion Ball B

The sort of dreary accordion sound reminds me of David Bowie's “Memory of a Free Festival.” Do you remember when I reviewed all the David Bowie albums? ...Those were great times. But anyway, back to this. I just broke the A- barrier even though I said earlier I wouldn't. This song is just too damn dreary. It's tastefully written, and I still *like* it. But he's just playing drab accordion chords and singing quietly with it. I'm just not with it.

Hard For Her A-

Oooo, naughty... But anyway, I'm quite clearly affected right now about this album's length and the fact that all these songs are acoustic and slow. There's no slide guitar on here, though, which confuses me! And why are the acoustic guitars strummed instead of jangly? I dunno... But anyway, this has a pretty melody that has a few subtle twists and turns in it, which makes this still worth the price of admission.

Comedown A-

The guitar pattern in this is reminiscent of The Beatles' “Dear Prudence,” which is a guitar pattern that I'll never object to hearing! ...I feel like I'm sort of glossing over these songs now, but what else should I say about them? They're nice songs with nice melodies and nice singing.

Holding Hands With Grace A-

This has a good melody, but it's only a minute long. Well, the guy had a lot of melodies sitting around! This could have been worth developing into a full and FAST song, I think. But anyway, it's pretty nice as it is.

Ratoon A

This is another Nick Duffy instrumental, and he's got a jazzy shuffle here that sounds like a looser version of a Henry Mancini instrumental from the '60s. Quite nice! The lead melody is taken on by a piano, and it has a pretty good tune. Maybe that guy should go into soundtracks?


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All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.