A Farewell to Orange (County)

With the recent news of former American pop culture phenomenon, The OC, being cancelled, I have grown a little nostalgic. While I never exactly hid the fact that i was a religious watcher, there were times that i must admit i wasn't exactly forthcoming about my Thursday night rendezvous with Cohen and the gang. Nevertheless, once Grey's Anatomy decided to move to the coveted 9pm Thursday evening slot during fall of 2005, I started to drift away from Newport beach. I tried to keep up by recording The OC on DVR, and watching it on Fridays, but i soon realized that my heart strings could only be spread so thin. The plot began to grow more and more ridonculous (even by OC standards), and come fall of 2006, the season premier felt so uninspired, that i finally pulled the plug on the three year roller coaster romance. I guess The OC, much like the two story beer bong or the pathological lying/kleptomaniac roommate, was just a college thing.

I still have fond memories of the old OC though. What i will always love most about the made-for-tv novella, even more than all the drama and hot chicks, was that it was pretty hip when it came to the music. In fact, while im not exactly proud to admit this, i discovered a number of new bands/artists by first hearing them play in the background of Summer and Seth slow dancing, or over one of those melodramatic moments at the end of an episode where they pan to each cast member intently reflecting about their respective lots in life. It was about this time of my life (the college years) that i went from casual music listener to music obsessed, and i would be lying if i said The OC was not a piece of the puzzle in this change.

As such, i thought it would be a fitting tribute, a fond farewell so to speak, to list my top ten musical moments from The OC (through season three, as i haven't been watching season four). Naysayers and hardasses, can scoff all they want, but the last time i checked, Modest Mouse never stopped by SportsCenter to play a set...and Seth Cohen didn't land Summer Roberts by playing her Sean Paul's "Temperature".

10. Interpol - "Evil" - Season 2: "The Accomplice"
In the midst of a blooming same-sex relationship between the not-so-wholesome Marissa Cooper and the punk-rockin' (underage?) barkeep, Alex, The OC writers decided to take their music from a little darker place. This uncharacteristically upbeat number from one of New York's sketchiest (for lack of a better term) post-punk bands frames one of The OC's most taboo moments perfectly. Opening with a bass line that always makes me look twice for Krist Novoselic, and Interpol's typical lyrical ambiguity hitting on solitary confinement and slowly released pleasure, the song spoke for a girl whose (not so) squeaky clean mother and step-father were horrified at the thought of a potential lesbian scandal. Leading us all to ask the question, "Hey, who's on trial?"

9. Joseph Arthur - "Honey and the Moon" - Season 1: "Premier"
Summer of 2003 was winding down, and from what i can remember, there was not a whole lot of excitement in the prime time summer lineup. Who would have thought that a few rich kids, and a Russel Crowe look alike would change all of that though. When The OC broke on the scene, the first song i remember hearing (besides the over-exhausted Phantom Planet played theme) was Joseph Arthur's "Honey and the Moon". Forever reminding me of late-summer evenings, "Honey and the Moon" was the scruffy, yet inviting, introduction that The OC needed. In just under five minutes, the song pretty much outlined the show's main themes of ever-changing hearts and never knowing what move to make next, all inside a not so simple singer-songwriter package. Most importantly, we learned early that in Newport, anything can happen at anytime, and what is right, may not be right, right now.

8. Stars - "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" - Season 2: "The Test" What a perfect song for the situation. Seth is losing Summer to that big doofus Zach, who is about to take Ms. Roberts to Italy. Eventually, Seth tells Summer that he is over her, but we all know this is a farce. Seth is doing this because, as the song instructs, when there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire. However, if it is over, this tale of a chance encounter between two former flames is a fitting close. In the end, "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" really reminds me of a Postal Service song, but better (I like the Postal Service too, so this isn't a knock to Gibbard's other gang). Where the Postal Service probably lose some of the passion in their music-by-mail recording style, Stars retain it all (and then some), and it all shines through in the performance.

7. Radiohead - "Fog" - Season 3: "The Day After Tomorrow"
I am pretty sure this was the only time Radiohead made it onto The OC, which is probably a good thing. Nevertheless, the minimalist arrangement of the Radiohead b-side, "Fog", which features nothing more than a piano and Thom Yorke's sometimes undecipherable vocals, lent itself wonderfully to one of those intense episode-ending scenes. This chapter saw Seth revealing to Summer that he would not be attending Brown in the fall (but failing to mention why...he did not get accepted), as well as the slow drifting apart of Ryan and current non-Marissa fling, Sadie. Images of the broken down gang flash before us as "Fog" leads the episode to the credits, and Yorke's difficult to discern vocals clear up just long enough to ask the questions everyone (or at least Summer) is wondering, "How did you go bad? Did you go bad?"

6. Sufjan Stevens - "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" - Season 3: "The Heavy Lifting"
In an episode where we (finally) say goodbye to that surfer punk that was obsessed with Marissa (Johnny), this Sufjan Stevens track leads us to the promise land (where the promise land equals the credits...which eventually meant Thursday night's most exciting 30 seconds...scenes from next week's episode). Here we have yet another cast spanning scene closing the show, and this time Stevens and his banjo are at the controls. The song slowly simmers from the start, nothing more than Stevens and his aforementioned instrument of choice. Soon though, things heat up (never to a boil though) with Stevens proclaiming "Ill do anything for you". Cue a not-so-subtle shot of Ryan on the screen. Loyalists know the show started with Cooper taking care of Atwood, but the tables quickly turned, and this scene just reinforces that. While we all knew Coop was about to hit (another) low, Sufjan spoke for Ryan, reminding us that we could rest assured, knowing Atwood was still in the pool house.

5. Death Cab For Cutie - "A Lack of Color" - Season 1: "The Goodbye Girl"
For a brief period of time during spring of 2004, you could ask anyone between the ages of 15 and 25 the simple question of "Summer or Anna?", and i'd be willing to bet that more often than not you found someone with an opinion on the matter. Personally, i preferred the more genuine, alternative Anna to the formerly "too cool for Cohen" Summer, although Roberts was my favorite in the end. We all knew Anna (much like Lindsay and Sadie) wasn't a permanent cast member though, and Ben Gibbard's steady girl, Death Cab, served as the backing band when we officially learned this. Gibbard's lyrics, over a simple acoustic guitar lick, tell the story of a desperate man who realizes he has made a mistake, but soon learns that it's too little, too late. Seth has a similar epiphany after he discovers Anna is heading back east, but much like the song's narrator, he never gave the girl a reason to stay.

4. Bloc Party - "Blue Light" - Season 3: "The Aftermath"
Season two left us with the cliffhanger of whether or not Marissa had killed Ryan's dead-beat brother, Trey. Season three's premier revealed that Trey survived the gunshot, and was in intensive care. However, the gang has a new issue: what will happen when Trey wakes up? Will he ruin everyone's "perfect" lives in Newport by telling the cops that Marissa shot him? Luckily, it never comes to that though because Trey vanishes from the ICU when he wakes up, and we see Ryan make it to the bus stop just in time to see his brother skipping town. As the bus pulls away, a remix of Bloc Party's "Blue Light" fades in, and we see a downtrodden Ryan and Trey acknowledge one another through the glass. While Ryan knew that Trey was nothing but trouble, and that his departure was the best thing for everyone, he was still sad to see his big brother go, and that's what this reflective Bloc Party song is all about. Kele Okereke communicates this bittersweet sentiment with the line, "I still feel you and the taste of cigarettes", and Ryan is living this juxtaposition with the loss of his cancerous brother.

3. LCD Soundsystem - "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" - Season 2: "The Rager"
The episode that this song played in was called "The Rager", and that pretty much sums this selection up. Basically, there is a big-ass party at Marissa Cooper's house (that i never would have been invited to), and James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem is serving as the DJ. Put the track on, and you will see why this party was rocking out. Murphy creates an environment here that really can't be described as it is the sonic equivalent of the word "boogie". Combine a pumping distorted guitar, a corresponding heavy bass line, hand claps, plenty of cowbell, and a ridiculous story about french group, Daft Punk, playing a show at Murphy's abode, and you have what "party music" truly should sound like. Ha-Ow-Ow!

2. Ryan Adams - "Wonderwall" - Season 1: "The Heartbreak"
I realize that to most individuals (specifically die hard 90's music fans), Mr. Adams' cover of a song that many regard as one of the best songs recorded in the 90's, is downright blasphemous (although, id be willing to bet that my blog cohort, a hardcore Oasis fan, would not even consider this song to be one of Oasis' top 10 songs...just a hunch though...kinda like how most die hard Stones fans would not consider "Satisfaction" one of their best songs...just kinda how it works when you devote yourself to a band...but that is whole other blog for an entirely different day). Anyhow, i would argue that Adams' version and the Gallagher's version aren't really comparable. While, yes, the lyrics and general structure are the same, Adams' slows it down to make it an entirely different beast, and i believe that it is not totally impossible for an individual to find great beauty in both versions. Additionally, it is Adams' version that is playing when Seth finally gets the girl. Up to this moment, Summer and Seth had actually had sex and and been "together", but this moment in Cohen's bedroom is when she finally lets her guard down to the indie-rock poster child. Summer reveals to Seth that she too was a virgin when they had sex, and that she was just trying to live up to her "reputation". After this, they both realize they need to slow it down a bit, and what better way to knock it down a couple notches than a slow-dance to a Ryan Adams record (Seth actually puts on the vinyl version of Love Is Hell...furthering his overall music credibility)? This scene had sensitive indie-rock nerds across America jumping up and down in their basements, saying to themselves, "Today is gonna be the day."

1. Jeff Buckley - "Hallelujah" - Season 1: "The Model Home" & "The Ties That Bind"
I should start by saying that Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" is not just my favorite OC musical moment, but one of my favorite songs of all time. "Hallelujah" is nothing more than a solitary man and an electric guitar, and i do not fear that my masculinity is in question when i say that it is one of the most beautiful songs i have in my music collection. This song could have been playing while Caleb Nichol signed a contract to sell the Cohen's home to the devil and i still would have loved the scene. In other words, Jeff Buckley's chilling cover of Leonard Cohen's breathtaking track is worthy of a spot on this list no matter what was happening when the song played. Throw in the fact that OC creators decided to use Buckley's version of the Cohen penned song as bookends for season one, and then you have my all-time favorite OC music moment. As i have alluded to before, i tend to be a sucker for the dramatic, and the OC's creator's played me like a fiddle on this one. The song was first played early in season one (second episode, touching moment between Marissa and Ryan right before Luke and Co. come to beat Ryan's ass, and the model home burns to the ground...i believe) and then is the last song we hear in season one's finale, bringing us full circle. As one would expect, it plays (in it's entirety by the way) during one of the most memorable OC moments: Ryan is leaving Newport and driving back to Chino, Marissa is drinking alone at her new home, and Seth is sailing off into the sunset. In essence, everything great that had built up during the 26 episodes preceding this one, came crumbling down, leaving us on the edge's of our seats until next November (wtf was that by the way? 6 months?!) to find out how it was all going to get put back together again. This really was the pinnacle for the show, and many would argue (quite accurately) that the season one magic was never realized again. For that moment in spring of 2004 though, The OC had America tied to it's proverbial kitchen chair.

In the end, it's the heart that the girls go for, and unfortunately The OC may have played this card a little too liberally, leaving us with nothing more than some great music and a bloody sleeve, but for that, i will forever be indebted.



Luke said...

I would actually consider Wonderwall to be in the top ten of Oasis songs, though it would be around the eight or nine mark... i might have to make that list into a post now.

Very good post, jaymo, though I take offense to not including South - Paint the Silence or Doves - Caught By the River on your list, although there were so many good songs played on the show (though i never watched) that your list could have been 50 songs long.

Oh, I just remembered that they played Beulah - Popular Mechanics for Lovers and Super Furry Animals - Hello Sunshine on there as well... too many good songs to choose from.

Jameson said...

I would love to see an Oasis top ten out of you...I hope the point i was making made sense.
As for the omissions..like you said, there was just too much to choose from. Over the years i have made linsday a few mixes based on songs played on the OC, and all of them have turned out to be great (in my, not so humble, opinion...i guess) Those mixes combine to about 40-50 songs right there. I tried to hit moments that were a combination of both great music, and somewhat monumental scenes. Im glad you liked the post though...i thought it was something different.