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The 20 Most L.A. Albums Ever: 20-11

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Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 3:17 AM
click to enlarge Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast - PHOTO BY SEAN TEEGARDEN
  • Photo by Sean Teegarden
  • Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast
From the Sunset Strip to the beach to the streets of South Central, L.A. has for decades created one mythology after another in its music. Whether these images are embraced - or, say, shattered by South Bay punk rock - the dichotomy of a struggling inner city and bikini-clad rich kids in the hills gives L.A. a unique sound, a texture of noise that exists in different ways on the great records born in its neighborhoods.

Surveying that landscape and digging into the contributions of our musical pioneers, we've selected the 20 most quintessentially L.A. records. -Art Tavana

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20. Beck

Mellow Gold (1994)

Beck, where have you gone? On his major label debut Mellow Gold, the sarcastic folkie epitomized everything that was glorious about slacker-era Los Angeles. He was our young Bob Dylan, a fearless, whimsical innovator who didn't take bullshit; Mellow Gold came before he perfected his craft (and seemingly got in touch with his inner Thetan). It's thus a hilarious, somehow cohesive mish-mosh of styles and gutter ramblings. Perhaps most entertaining are the cast of Angeleno characters, everyone from the jerk behind the KFC counter to the hippie girl eating salad for breakfast. -Ben Westhoff 

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19. Best Coast
Crazy For You (2010)

One could hear Crazy For You in the dead of a Chicago winter and still feel the Southern California sunshine. Best Coast's debut captures the quintessential L.A. aura: bright and beachy. Its lo-fi, reverb drenched tracks are a throwback to classic surf pop - sweet and simple, like a popsicle on the Santa Monica Pier. -Artemis Thomas-Hansard

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18. The Runaways
The Runaways (1976)

Angsty teen Valley girls The Runaways were looking to explore the loud and lewd life they saw beckoning in nearby Hollywood, and their debut captured a hunger for rock n' roll debauchery. The Runaways is a coming of age in L.A. fantasy - well, with Cherie Currie's crooning on songs like "Cherry Bomb" and "You Drive Me Wild," it sure gave their guy fans something to fantasize about, anyway. Written by Joan Jett and Kim Fowley, the raw, tough cuts on the work convey the city of angels through the eyes of the not exactly angelic. -Lina Lecaro

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17. Mötley Crüe
Too Fast for Love (1981)

Mötley Crüe's 1981 debut album Too Fast For Love is the sound of the Sunset Strip right before it fell in love with its own cocaine-dusted reflection. From opening snakeskin boot stomper "Live Wire," to the awkwardly tender "Starry Eyes" ("She'll hold you like a man is supposed to be held"), Mötley Crüe embraced Hollywood's transition from the archetypal image of the American dream to the city's seedy underbelly. 1983's Shout at the Devil was the Crüe's mainstream breakthrough, but it also foreshadowed the formulaic genre conventions that turned glam metal into a parody of itself. Slick, decadent, and dangerous, Too Fast For Love retains the original sleazy punk rock fuel that, in the '80s, made Hollywood a den of sin. -Theis Duelund

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