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"Memories Come True"

Cliffie Swan – Memories Come True
27 June 2011, 08:58 Written by Andy Johnson

In what could be interpreted as a bid to get the issue of their influences out of the way early, Cliffie Swan draw the title of their record’s opening track from a combination of the names of two songs from Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 opus Rumours. Crisp and laid back, ‘Dream Chain’ is a fine introduction to the sound of this band reborn, steeped in the the radio rock of the ’70s but borrowing also from a number of later trends.

Until last year, Sophia Knapp and Linnea Vedder were Lights: under that name they released a pair of LPs which drew comment on their magpie-like picking over of different styles before name conflict caused them to re-christen themselves. Knapp and Vedder’s transmutation into Cliffie Swan represents more than just a name change however; Memories Come True is best thought of as the début album of a whole new project in which the eclecticism is scaled down but the songwriting remains consistently strong.

The basic template, typified by the impressive opening trio of ‘Dream Chain’, ‘Soft and Mean’ and ‘Yes I Love You’ consists of homely, wayfaring rock given a scuzzy edge by occasional grunge guitar and a dreamy glow by Knapp’s precisely floating voice. While not truly extraordinary in any aspect, Knapp’s vocals are the glue that bonds this core sound to the album’s more strung-out, psychedelic midsection, dominated by the lingering ‘Full of Pain’.

Late in the album, suspicions of Cliffie Swan’s debt to Stevie Nicks are confirmed most strongly by ‘She’s Almost Gone’, which amps up the mystique in Knapp’s rising vocals in the tale of a hard-to-pin-down “woman of the wind” cut from the same cloth as the “woman taken by the wind” in Nicks’ ‘Rhiannon’. That song, of course, became a #11 US hit single for Fleetwood Mac in June 1976 – thirty-five years to the month before Cliffie Swan’s album sees release. Memories Come True, indeed.

The strong retro feel to Cliffie Swan’s songs – no pun intended – makes them feel comfortable and immediately familiar, especially in their warm guitars and the reassuringly firm drum performances. Fortunately though, the band largely employ a modern songwriting sensibility and today’s production techniques to keep their record from sounding simply like the kind of unreleased ’70s relic their label, Drag City, are increasingly known for putting out.

Fleetwood Mac-esque million-selling chart success seems an outside possibility for Cliffie Swan – the music world has changed immeasurably and their hooks can sometimes be found lacking – but that does not take away from them the accomplishment of these songs. Recording compelling and varied soft rock with real verve, Knapp and Vedder have every reason to feel proud of an album which satisfyingly fuses a rich vein of influences with their own personal touch.

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