“Reaction” by Silvertone Hills is a sophisticated song wrapped in an indie-rock package. It hearkens back to music made by bands such as The Kinks or some of the early Strokes, but with some of the nuance of R.E.M. There are the jangling insistent guitars, a steady but simple drum part, solid bass, and a lead vocal that could fit right in with either of those bands. There’s also something that reminds me of The Beach Boys, although that’s more of an overall feeling than a specific part or sound. Maybe more of what I would call California sun – something you’d want to play as you drive your convertible down along the ocean. It’s one of those great summer songs – made for hanging with your friends, playing outdoor games, and jamming along with the guitar riffs.
However, the thing that struck me most about this track is the craft of the songwriting. The sectional identity (how each part of the song differs from the other) of the melody was the first thing that I noticed. From the opening notes of the verse centered around a common pitch, it was slightly predictable to the genre (not a bad thing really), but interesting – especially with the motion of the melody and where it lands in relation to the harmony. Then, the pre-chorus, with the build upwards to the release with the highest note heard in the melody so far. On to the chorus with its sing-able and memorable hook, “No one can tell us different.” There are also sophisticated uses of prosody (how the melody and lyric combine to elicit an emotional response) and rhyme schemes – both internal and end rhymes that allow the melody to almost bounce along effortlessly with just the right amount of energy and angst. All in all, a well-crafted and well-executed song structure that helps to convey the message and attitude of the song.
The lead singer, O’Sullivan, delivers a stellar vocal, confident and strong. But don’t forget to listen to the band! Park (bass) and Mostert (drums) are locked together and provide the foundation for this song to be what it is. Park specifically adds some really wonderful motion to the pre-chorus – almost a counter-melody to the lead – but knowing exactly when to come back to the groove for the chorus. Add to that the guitars from Billone and Slagter with all the different riffs, and you’ve got yourself five parts that make up an effective team.
This is a young person’s anthem for sure. The music frames the lyric and makes it even more convincing and dynamic. It’s a lyric about rebellion and standing up for yourself and what you believe in, even if it won’t win you approval. It’s also about examining your beliefs and wondering what path to take next and which one is the right one – or if there even is a right one. Wondering what is truth and who is telling it and who to believe and trying to take the time to figure out who you’ve become and who you want to be.
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