I don't know if it is because I am out of touch from living in Malaysia or because Stephen Duffy/The Lilac Time fly so low under the radar (as they have done much of their career) but I have just noticed that The Lilac Time released a new album this past April - NO SAD SONGS.
I am happy to say it is the best thing Duffy has done since 1999's LOOKING FOR A DAY IN THE NIGHT. All the classic Duffy/Lilac musical touches are here - Deceptively simple melodic arrangements, delicately plucked banjo, pedal steel guitar, pretty strings, and what has turned into the signature trait of their recordings, Duffy's beautiful weary/wise voice which uses the deeper range to great effect - Like a less high pitched less whispery Paddy McAloon.
The best songs after a couple listens - The Dream That Woke Me, Prussian Blue, The First Song of Spring, No Sad Songs.
After being in an early version of Duran Duran (but not recording with them) and several synth pop records in the 80's under the name Tin Tin, Duffy made four records as part of The Lilac Time (which for all intents and purposes was him plus his brother now even more so) THE LILAC TIME, PARADISE CIRCUS, & LOVE FOR ALL, and ASTRONAUTS. They are all brilliant (CIRCUS being my favorite) showcasing Duffy's singing and largely acoustic, sometimes Byrds-y shimmering guitar as well as banjos, pedal steel guitars, strings, and other accompaniments. As a songwriter, Duffy documents love in perspective, the after effects of love with a empathic eye and an open heart.
After the first four records, Duffy broke the Lilac Time up for a period and made three albums under his own name - MUSIC IN COLORS (with Nigel Kennedy), DUFFY, and I LOVE MY FRIENDS. COLORS showcases an army of strings, DUFFY is produced by Mitch Easter and features a variation on a Big Star type of Southern Power Pop sound. FRIENDS is the best of the three as it is the most varied in sound and consistent in songwriting and features among the guests Andy Partridge and members of Blur and Elastica.
After that, he reformed The Lilac Time. Of the reformed Lilac records, as I noted above, LOOKING FOR A DAY IN THE NIGHT is the only great one until now. Duffy also made a collaboration record in 2000's with Nick Rhodes under the name The Devils which is moody and nice.
Duffy's music is a real hidden treasure, beautiful, literate, exquisitely produced.