Hey guys, our Best of OC 2013 Issue is out today! The moment you've all been waiting for. In the spirit of cheer leading for our weird little corner of the world, we've broken down a list of the best rockers, rappers, DJs and singers, etc. that we have to offer. The following winners are broken up by genre:
Best Live Band
Feel like leaving a show with a few scrambled brain cells, the stench of sweat and cigarettes on your clothes, and an enormous smile on your face? Pay a visit to Dahga Bloom's next gig. Cultivated in the dankest corners of OC's warehouse-show scene, Fullerton's favorite psychedelic quintet live to throttle your senses with undulating rhythms, spacey reverb, acid trip projections and primordial screams. Though four-fifths of the band are sitting down (including the guitarists), it's the frenzy they conjure around them–akin to that of snake charmers in a pit of vipers (or, in this case, hipsters)–that makes every set truly memorable. Paying their dues for years in OC has earned them the kind of respect and trust that ultimately convinces you to lose your bullshit too-cool pose for the duration of the performance, strip off an article or two of clothing, and do exactly as they say.
Readers' Choice: Flashback Heart Attack
Best Hip-Hop Act
Innate and EP
In this day and age, there seems to be a dearth of good times and positive hip-hop. San Clemente's Innate N EP stepped outside of the group Rock Bottom for a quick moment to offer much-needed uplifting rhymes. Live instrumentation, smooth deliveries, smart lyricism and golden-age-inspired rap beats frame the resulting album, Such As I, throughout its expertly crafted offerings. For as clean as it sounds, Innate N EP are even better live. No stranger to OC's stages, they've shared bills with veteran underground hip-hop heroes, as well as taking part in the Back to Basics Festival this summer. If boasts about “Bugattis and bitches” ain't your thing, Innate N EP bring hip-hop back to where good music does what it should: make people vibe right to this limited-time offer called life.
Readers' Choice: Snoop/ Tha Dogg Pound
Best New Band
If not for a change in majors, singing sensation Nilu Madadi might have been concocting chemistry experiments in a lab instead of arranging music in a studio. When “Sing for You” went viral on YouTube last year, revealing her multifaceted talents, Orange County and beyond were thankful for the risk she took. The rush of attention was new, and the powerful ballad carried Nilu all the way to this March's OC Music Awards, where she opened the show with a mesmerizing performance. The singer/songwriter is much more than a one-hit phenomenon: She outdid herself venturing into the world of vocal dubstep with fellow local Singularity for “Horizon,” another rapid views-tallying success. All the while, Nilu's ever-increasing fan base has been patiently awaiting her much anticipated debut EP with her band, featuring songs such as “Breakdown” and “Someday.”
Best Indie Band
This Fullerton five-piece is not messing around, producing hypnotic, epic indie-rock jams for your mind, body and soul. A welcome respite from the lo-fi garage sound that has been creeping up airwaves as of late, Canyons' sound doesn't quite fit in the realm of psychedelic music, but it's equally trippy, sending you away to some far-off majestic landscape of the mind through its hazy guitar and booming, energetic drums. There are reflections of '90s alt-rock in there, with Jeremy Leasure's gripping vocals somewhere between a young, desperate Mick Jagger and an enraged Billy Corgan. Their EP features five tracks and is available for free on their Bandcamp, an amazingly sweet deal. All masterfully orchestrated and rich, their sound is great on headphones, but it's definitely recommended to check out the group live and get swept up in their lush, raucous sound.
Readers' Choice: The Devious Means
See also: The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene
Best Folk Act
Nowadays, we're accosted by bearded hipsters playing backwoods music on banjos and singing about working on the farm (do they know how HARD that actually is?!), but one band pulls that off like no other. Moonsville Collective–Corey Adams, Ryan Welch, Bill Bell, Drew Martin, Seth Richardson and “Hot Hands Dan” Richardson–combine country, dixie, New Orleans rag and other pre-World War II genres into what they simply call “old timey.” And yes, there are beards, a washboard and an upright bass, some plaid, and some general hootin' and hollerin', but damn, you'd be hard-up to find a folk band that's this much fun. They're a tight group, and their musicianship level is premium. If can't catch one of their amazing shows around Southern California, hire them to play your event, and then party with them afterward. Not only is their music lovely, but they're just so nice, too!
Best Punk Band
It's not just because the members of Manic Hispanic are punk royalty, having played in some of our most influential bands. It's not just because they're cele-brating their 20th anniversary this year. It's not even because lead singer Gabby Gaborno is OC's ultimate musical survivor, or because of their hilarious lyrics, or because their stage show is the funniest happening in Orange County every year come Cinco de Drinko. No, Manic Hispanic are our choice for best punk band because they're universally beloved and respected by fans and peers, and they've slid into middle age like a fine tequila blanco turns into a repo-sado–now that's punk as fuck.
Reader's Choice: Social Distortion
See also: The 10 Greatest OC Metal Bands of All Time
Best Rock Band
Robert Jon and the Wreck
There's no shortage of bands who can impress you with how many notes they can play, how many solos they can pull off, how many times the keyboardist can bang his afro against the ivories. To a certain degree, Robert Jon and the Wreck have all of those qualities. But what separates them from the rest of the pack is their ability to combine technical wizardry, headbanging gusto and Super Bowl half-time choruses in a way that just feels real. (Oh, and their OC Music Award for Best Live Band.) Even in the middle of sterile SoCal suburbia, songs such as “Georgia Mud” and “Rhythm of the Road” are delivered with pounding, relentless energy built for the roughest, toughest roadhouses. No matter where they're performing, you can count on them leaving the stage drenched in sweat, a graveyard of broken strings and sticks at their feet. Most important, you don't walk away from this band without conceding they have earned their facial hair . . . a true test for any great rock band.
Reader's Choice: Social Distortion
Best Club DJ
Norin and Rad
These days, just about any douche with a laptop can have some sort of DJ career. But creating a sound that generates a true fan frenzy in a crowd is a feat not every Serato jockey can achieve. But that kind of je ne sais quoi is aptly woven into the music of Bruce Karlsson and Nick Sember–a.k.a. DJ duo Norin and Rad. In a short time, the pair morphed from bedroom producers into current rising stars signed to U.K. trance heroes Above N Beyond's acclaimed Anjunabeats label in 2011 after doing a remix for them. Norin and Rad's first original single, “Bloom,” combined contemporary synths and piano breakdowns to create something special. Not bad for two young, whacky guys from Orange County who like to party but also enjoy being at home watching movies and dousing their food in Sriracha–a habit developed in their hometown of Westminster.
Readers' Choice: DJ Alex Dreamz
Wait, seriously? How have we done Best Of for so long without honoring this guy? As a founding member of the World Famous Beat Junkies, Rhettmatic is still pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a DJ. While technically growing up in Cerritos puts you in Los Angeles County, by the time you finish your uprock, you're in Buena Park . . . and that's close enough for us. You can find him still repping OC at the Crosby the first Thursday of every month.
Best DJ Collective
Proactive about staying afloat in the underground DJ scene, GRN+GLD have been throwing down explosive beats mixed with experimental hip-hop, ambient music and even live instruments for three years. Its nine members include DJs, sound producers and musicians, plus artists working the visual aspects, from graphic design to zines. Keep an eye out for this crew, who have crafted the soundtrack to your late nights on the town in Orange County, Inland Empire and Los Angeles. And don't be afraid to chat with these fellows while picking up a zine, which is as psychedelic and trippy as their sounds.
Best Latin Alternative Band
Since debuting in 2010, ¡Aparato!'s blend of traditional Mexican folk instrumentation and experimental post-punk-rock riffs has mesmerized music-lovers. With her rich vocals, Anaheim's Nancy “Cat” Mendez shares righteous musings of a better world to a progressive, futuristic sound. As they prepare their IndieGoGo-funded debut album, the band have gained accolades and airplay from NPR's alt.Latino podcast as well as KPFK's influential Travel Tips for Aztlan. While guitarist Alexandro Hernández has been geeking it up as a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution in D.C., the band added Vaneza Calderón on guitarrón. With effects pedals cranking out otherworldly sounds from the electric guitar as a jarana huasteca furiously strums, ¡Aparato! have represented the upside-down exclamation point better than anything since ¡Ask a Mexican!
Best Future Superstar Singer
The Anaheim native and Price Elementary School dual-immersion student's deep voice took him all the way to the finals of La Voz Kids on Telemundo this summer. Sean Oliu wowed celebrity judges with his renditions of Marco Antonio Solis' “Si No Te Hubieras Ido” and “La Adelita,” the famous corrido of the Mexican Revolution hailing the country's female rebels. A product of Anaheim's Rhythmo Mariachi Academy, the 11-year-old ultimately didn't win, but interest in employing his voice has heightened; since the show, he has graced stages from the H20 Festival in Los Angeles to Fiestas Patrias in Santa Ana, with more gigs forthcoming.