Staff Top 10
Top 10 Organ Settings of This Millenium

a typical high school fixation with The Doors, The Beatles, and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd introduced me to the value of a well-placed organ figure. Whatever the presence of the instrument—from the technically sound organ variety of Ray Manzarek to the simpler, chord-sustaining organ compliments like non-Billy Preston, Beatles’ organ parts—one cannot help but appreciate the expansive element an organ adds to the guitar-ruled world of rock.

But after Farfisas and Hammonds were the staple accompanying instrument in the 60’s, it became increasingly difficult to find a decent organ sound amongst the “rock organs” of the 1970’s arena-rocked world, the synthesizer-monopolized 1980’s, and the lo-fi indie and hi-fi grunge of the early 90s.

Today, in the midst of a millennium that hasn’t exactly established a genre of its own, the 21st century has, to a certain degree, broken down genre barriers. No instrument or compositional technique is restricted to a singular type of music, and thus, it’s possible for the IDM nut to find his or her much-loved 808 beat in a psych-pop track, for the E6 fan to satisfy his fuzz bass fetish with a dose mainstream rap, and for organ-addicts, like myself, to find their beloved melodies spread across a variety of genres and subgenres. Below is a list of 10 songs that, in part or total, might not set your house a-fire, but whose organ settings are some of the best of this millennium.

10) “Radio Cure” – Wilco
Perhaps not overly proud of the achieved sound himself, Jay Bennett refers to the wispy, synthesized organ played throughout Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as “fake organ.” Instrument impersonator or not, the organ, very light in nature, disintegrates each verse into the bridge with magnificently understated flair.

09) “Pendulum” – Broadcast
Duple-metered organ static drives this addictive track. One of the more propulsive tracks by these under-heralded psychedelic rockers.

8) “Smelling Cigarettes” - Fiery Furnaces
Indie’s workaholics place a clean, magnificently produced organ explosion at the tail end of this multi-movement EPtrack.

7) “Untitled 4” - Sigur Ros
This song has a couple of Christian cultural connections, such as the melody sharing several notes with Wes King’s classic “Robe.” If you ever lose your faith, or misplace it at the very least, a quick listen to the Yamaha SK organ solo toward the end of this ( ) track might leave you craving some traditional church organ, once again.

6) “Stakes Is High (MF Doom Remix)” - De La Soul
The man in the iron mask decorates this classic De La Soul rap with gorgeous analog chord organ. Given AM radio production-treatment, the remix is another fine example of MF Doom’s impeccable studio skills.

5) “Tuff Ghost” - The Unicorns
The keyboard rule of thumb holds true once again: men who look prepubescent will forever rule the synthesized side of music. Using an amazing analog synth setting, this long-maned Unicorn creates dirty low-end organ-sounding chords with his left hand, and pitch shifting organ tinklings with his right.

4) “Cold, Cold Night” - The White Stripes
My, what is that booming, scale-climbing backbone? Overdriven electric bass? Tuned down guitar through an octave pedal? According to Jack, he creates the rumbling, sub-woofer explosion of “Cold, Cold Night” by pressing the low-octave pedals on a Hammond organ. Listen closely and you can hear Jack on his hands and knees, pushing on the pedals—for real. Listen closer and you can hear his greasy locks slapping against his pasty face—not for real.

3) “B.O.B.” – Outkast
Beneath the raucous rapping and closely mic’d percussion lies a tinny 18th century organ rift that recalls the favorite video game of depressed kids in the early 90’s, Castlevania.

2) “What’s In It For Me?” - The Walkmen
Features a pinnacle of swirling organs. Keyboardist Walter Martin begins The Walkmen’s magnificent second album with rich, sustaining organ purrs, fully equipped with a Leslie speaker effect. The organ engulfs the entire studio, rushing across all the walls of the DC natives’ analog studio.

1) “Walking With Thee” - Clinic
Clinic’s organ set-up of a Philicord through a vintage Fuzz Face, and out of a Vox AC30 has created some of the most stupefying organ melodies of the past several years, in turn making Clinic the 21st century’s “that band with the organ.” With so many to chose from—from the sweet sustaining organ chords of “Distortions” to the fuzzed-out ferocity of “2/4”—it’s tough to pick just one, but “Walking With Thee” is the winner, as it captures the band’s controlled, retro fuzziness and features both chord sustaining and hypnotic, high-end rifting.

By: Kyle McConaghy
Published on: 2005-03-04
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