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  • Bryon Harris

Reece Ratliff - 'Checkered Vans

Review by By Matt Wong & Staff

17-year old Reece Ratliff picked up his first guitar at the age of two, took guitar lessons in grade school, and shined in his local chapter of School of Rock. Drawing on musical influences such as Christian French and Lauv, Ratliff began expressing himself through songwriting. After releasing his debut EP, I’ll Take The Fall, at age 16, Ratliff set out on the road by himself for a 21-city tour, “hero’s journey,” a month-long acoustic set performed across the eastern half of the United States. Crashing on friends’ and strangers’ couches, much of his new material was inspired on the road. His latest single, "Checkered Vans" showcases the young singer-songwriters undeniable talent.

“Checkered Vans” begins with an engaging, syncopated beat and a synth hook. Ratliff vocals enter on the first verse with smooth and polished pop vocals. The arrangement grows in texture gradually throughout the verse, giving listeners interesting new melodic and percussive elements on every phrase.

Using dynamics, and width in the mix, the song’s chorus hits with maximum on the listener, and the arrangement supports the lyrics through musical storytelling. Following the chorus, the song constricts again, both musically, and sonically for the second chorus.

"Cause I know you love Those checkered Vans Yeah the ones you had to have The ones we bought that Saturday night, in the mall When we still had a chance The ones that made you dance On the hood of your dad’s new Benz In the rain, our song on the radio You and me holding hands Damn those checkered Vans"

Against a scaled back arrangement, Ratcliff’s vocals, complemented by stellar background vocals continuing from the first verse, are brought up front and center for an intimate listening experience for the listener. The second chorus ends with a catchy, and melodic instrumental hook as the song moves into its well-written bridge.

The melody on the bridge is rhythmic and groovy.

The lyrics in “Checkered Vans” were written to be centered around the common piece clothing in an effort to unify people across the world. The lyrics tell the story of a pair of checkered vans left behind in a breakup, which represent the memories of a classic teen relationship. These memories include buying the shoes “that Saturday night, in the mall when we still had a chance” and wearing them to “dance on the hood of your dad’s new Benz in the rain.” By highlighting the universal feeling of falling in love for the first time, listeners of all backgrounds will be able to relate and connect to the lyrics.

“Checkered Vans” by Reece Ratliff is an exciting piece of music with universal appeal. The melody and lyrics are well written, and the arrangement effectively supports and delivers them to listeners. With a modern sound, the song is full of stimulating sounds and textures, producing a unique brand of pop music. Ratliff’s excellent vocals top it all off, and deliver a powerful performance to listeners. Keep your ears on Reece Ratliff. With skills like this, at such a young age, he's destined for big things.

For more information, please visit Reece Ratliff's website.

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