U.S. Bombs
U.S. Bombs

Top 20 Greatest OC Albums of All Time: #20-11

For the past 18 years, faithful readers of the OC Weekly have counted on our music section for the continuous cycle of sniffing out the local albums. It goes something like this: We search for them (yeah, we get a shit ton in the mail too), we listen to them, separate the wheat from the chaff, remind you of their release dates, champion them when they sell a bajillion copies and remind you who told you to give them a listen in the first place. Along the way, we've also made sure to pay tribute to the classic albums that paved the way for OC music culture as we know it. Though there are literally thousands of OC-based offerings worthy of our admiration, there are always going to be a handful of albums that immediately pop into our brain when someone asks us to rehash the best albums that define OC music and also represent both a time and place in our native sound. Love it or hate it, this is what we came up with. Without further ado, here is our list of the Top 20 Greatest Albums of All Time.--Nate Jackson

20) LD & Ariano, A Thin Line (2006)
Few artists have done as much to bring major label talent into the fold of OC hip-hop as LD and Ariano. A quick scan of their discography uncovers featured verses from names like U-God of the Wu Tang Clan, Chali2na of Jurassic Five, RBX and Snoop Dogg as well as local legends like LMNO and DJ Rhettmattic. But none of these artists would've co-signed this duo without the deft lyrical chops and baritone hooks of Huntington Beach rapper Ariano and the turntable wizardry of his DJ, LD. It all started with their 2006 debut A Thin Line, which boasts catchy underground beats inspired by everyone from DJ Premiere to Madlib. Aside from the fact that it still holds up seven years after its release, this album--the beginning of an unbelievable avalanche of material--is one of the best entrees into OC hip-hop we can think of.--Nate Jackson

19) Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, First You Live (2007)
Nothing says "Fuck you" to rock-n-roll conventionalism like a curly-haired guy with an accordion. In that regard, its really no surprise that a band like Dusty Rhodes and the River Band created such a cult following in the mid-2000s. With a mix of classic rock gumption, knee-slapping folk, proggy complexity and the irreverent soul of squeeze box-playing frontman Dustin Apodaca, the band reached the height of their popularity with their 2007 SideOneDummy debut First You Live. Produced by former Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens, the album's gritty aesthetic, musical complexity, reliance on multiple vocalists and heartfelt lyrics helped make this band the talk of OC's music scene for several years. Though the band officially played its last show in 2011, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the Fullerton/Anaheim music scene that will hesitate to raise a fist to the chorus of "Street Fighter."--Nate Jackson

18) Matt Costa,  Songs We Sing (2006)
Yes, OC is rife with history in the singer-songwriter arena. And a lot of people will say that history peaked with the likes of Steve Noonan, Jackson Browne and Tim Buckley (aka the Orange County Three). But few bards in recent years have gotten as much shine as Huntington Beach pro skater-tuned-singer Matt Costa. When his homemade demo reached Tom Dumont in 2003, the No Doubt guitarist was instantly inspired to produce and work with the voice on the other side of the recording. Getting together with producer/engineer Phil Ek, Dumont and Costa were able to sew together a woodsy and whimsical folk rock classic called The Songs We Sing. After catching the ear of Jack Johnson, Costa was signed to his label Brushfire Records, toured the world with the likes of Oasis and Ryan Adams. Yet if you catch him milling around outside before a big show and ask him to play an old hit like "Astair," or "Whiskey and Wine," chances are he'll do it. --Nate Jackson

17)Young the Giant, Young the Giant (2010)
After honing their craft playing local shows for a number of years, the band formerly known as The Jakes were signed to Roadrunner Records in 2009. One name change later, Sameer Gadhia and company recorded and released their self-titled debut in 2010 and became a surprise hit. Catchy sing-a-longs like "My Body" and "Cough Syrup" combined sunny Southern California pop with indie rock and propelled the album up the charts and allowed the quintet to tour all over the world, even winning accolades from the notoriously prickly Morrissey. A departure from the pop punk that defines the area, Young the Giant proved that a band from Orange County could make an album that was both radio friendly and complex at the same time.--Daniel Kohn

16) The Growlers,Greatest Hits (2008)
Before they were playing Coachella and receiving nods from Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, the Growlers an anonymous outfit of psychedelic surf punks with the good humor (or was it severe cockiness?) to title their debut album "Greatest Hits." Back when former music editor Dave Segal reviewed it in 2008, he called the 25-track, 78-minute offering a but at 25 tracks and 78 minutes an "archival clearinghouse of ideas." "Most of these songs exude a casual, understated cool, marked by winding, mesmerizing, spangly guitars and Brooks Nielsen's riveting, woebegone vocals," said Segal. "Even 38-second scraps such as "My Forehead's Dripping Ocean" bear close listening." Five years later, this is still one of the weirdest albums to come out of OC in recent memory. And that's why we love it. --Nate Jackson

15)Cold War Kids, Robbers and Cowards (2006)
Two years after forming in Fullerton, Cold War Kids' 2006 debut established them as one of the early bands to bring indie rock into the mainstream. Singer Nathan Willett's lyrics that described painfully flawed characters and infectious, soulful melodies were raw and authentic. The band quickly became fixtures on radio stations all over the world with "We Used to Vacation" serving as their calling card. Combine those elements with generally positive reviews and you have yourself a delightful debut that laid the foundation for future successes for the quartet.--Daniel Kohn

14)US Bombs, War Birth (1997)
It's hard to fathom OC punk without the birth U.S. Bombs. In a lot of ways their fourth album War Birth was actually more of a re-birth. Released on Hellcat records in 1997, the band's undeniably sarcastic and pissed of view of life behind the Orange Curtain is palpable in the midst of all the rocket propelled guitars and inebriated growling. All you have to do is listen to "Orange Crush" to hear Duane Peter's frustration with the plastic people of suburbia. If you're looking for aggressive, OC skate punk at its finest, this record is a must-listen. --Nate Jackson

13)The Vandals,Hitler Bad, Vandals Good (1998)
Among the first acts signed to The Offspring lead singer Dexter Holland's Nitro Records, The Vandals shared their boss' penchant for darkly comedic lyrics, infectious hooks and bombastically fun musicianship. Their magnum opus, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good, best exemplified their whimsical irreverence and machine-gun momentum. From the spiteful glee of "My Girlfriend's Dead" to the undeniable fun of "An Idea for a Movie" (a track immortalized in the Troma film Terror Firmer), it's an album where the lighter side of punk's darkest humor proudly shines.--Chaz Kangas

12)Reel Big Fish, Turn the Radio Off (1997)
Reel Big Fish had hardly reinvented the wheel when this album landed in the middle of the third-wave ska craze in 1997. But with a dish of interesting sonic diversions into rock and reggae, the band scored big with their sophomore release--anchored by their big hit "Sell Out." Ironically, the track was blasting almost any college or alternative radio station you could think of at the time. KROQ personality Jed the Fish even appears on the kooky, immortal cover art with a gun held to his face by a very unstable female. Few third wave ska albums are as synonymous with the OC ska sound. And the fact that they've been able to hold on to their fans and stay true to the sound even though times have obviously changed says a lot about how much this material still holds up. --Nate Jackson

11) Agent Orange, Living in Darkness (1981)
The first album from Orange-based OG's Agent Orange originally consisted of a mere eight songs, but these guys were the kind of band who could squeeze 100,000 joules out of a tracklist that short. If you ever want to imagine what it was like to be a hopeless wastrel of a punk in an '80s Cali wasteland, give your copy of Damaged a smoke break and fire up Living in Darkness. Ringleader Mike Palm spent Darkness repeatedly reminding you of how cruel and pointless life is while senselessly indulging in materialistic pursuits (loaded dames, good booze, joyrides) and still hoping to not die young. Match Palm's existentialist-in-training lyricism with crunchy punk rock, sharp-edged surf rock and doomed, echo-heavy background chants, and you're left with a brilliant, often overlooked artifact.--Reyan Ali

...Stay tuned for the the second half of the list (#10-1) on Monday!

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