The O.C., the teen drama show that captivated the attention of those of us who went through puberty during the early 2000s, was as much about the sensational lives of its attractive, hormone-driven characters as its five-star indie soundtrack. In its four-year run, The O.C. released six soundtracks, each chock-full of melodious indie goodness and tuneful rock hooks. Indeed, the master behind the song selection, The O.C. Music Supervisor Alex Patsavas, made indie rock a main focus of the series. On the show, the main characters frequently hit up The Bait Shop, a fictional concert venue that featured non-fictional bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse. Music from the O.C. Mixes 1-6 introduced all of us to the glorious world of indie rock, and for that, we are all eternally thankful.
Here are five of the most influential tracks off the O.C. Mixes.
1. "The Way We Get By" by Spoon
"We get high in back seats of cars. / We break into mobile homes. / We go to sleep to shake appeal. / Never wake up on our own." I'm pretty sure that I had never actually felt cool until I listened to this song. "The Way We Get By" put Spoon on the map of indie-rock notables, and served as background music to an untold number of teenage back-seat hookups.
2. "A Lack of Color" by Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie's self-pitying acoustic love ballad perhaps best represents the eternal melancholia found throughout The O.C.'s characters' comings-of-age — that same tinge of melancholia that attracted our younger, teenage-angsty selves to the show in the first place. That white-noise droning behind the nasally falsetto of Ben Gibbard's poignant lyrics takes me back to my first heartbreak every time: "I'm reaching for the phone / To call at 7:03 / And on your machine I slur a plea / For you to come home." It also reminds me that when I first heard it, we were all actually using real phones.
3. "If You Leave" by Nada Surf
There couldn't have been a more suitable track to represent the teenage-romance-in-California theme that The O.C. thrived off of than "If You Leave." A sparkly breakup song about a relationship on the verge of separation, with references to real sensuality ("I touch you once / I touch you twice"), by a band with "surf" in its name. Oh, it's too perfect. And in a prelude to the rise of hipsterdom that The O.C. surely helped precipitate (no judgements here), the song is actually a cover, originally written by 80s British alt-rock group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
4. "Little House of Savages" by The Walkmen
This call-to-party, organ-driven bomb of a song introduced us to the vintage sound of NYC-based garage-rockers The Walkmen. With a title that never comes up in the actual lyrics of the song, it was a fine introduction to poetic license in our early teenage years. It also made for a pretty great song to blast in the car after I passed my driving test.
5. "To Be Alone With You" by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens' heart-wrenching acoustic ballad manipulated many a fragile heart string into profound adolescent attraction. "I'd swim across Lake Michigan / I'd sell my shoes / I'd give my body to be back again / In the rest of the room / To be alone with you." Just a beautiful song. Period.