Favorite Garage Tunes

If you don't give a rat's ass about words written about music, here's your skip to the actual list.

Since I am forever damned to make lists about music until the forces behind the machinations of the universe decide to cut my cord, why not make one for a genre of music that's been a large fixation for me in the past decade and change: Garage.

For those unaware, Garage is a style of house music that started popping up around... let's say the early 90's. It initially developed as an outgrowth of what house music DJ's and producers were doing in places like New York and New Jersey. Eventually this music found its way over to the UK where DJ's across the pond started doing their own variations on the style. This is where we get the term "UK Garage", and UK Garage is primarily what this list encompasses. UK Garage splintered into different styles based around the types of rhythms and melodies utilized. Some styles went for a more upbeat and sometimes sexy kind of vibe, whereas others went for a grimier underground kind of vibe. Some of that grimier stuff lead to some more... let's say "divisive" directions in electronically-made music. I love the full spectrum of styles within UK Garage so I've tried to include as much stylistic variation as I could with this list. Plus there were still classic records coming out of Garage music in the states on labels like Strictly Rhythm and Nervous. The American stuff, though, didn't seem to take as much influence from the UK as they did from the American stuff. Honestly it's only in more recent years that I've seen American producers working in the UK idioms of garage.

Of course this all begs the question: how did some random ass yank end up so fascinated with UK Garage? While I recall hearing Daniel Bedingfield's "I Gotta Get Thru This" in some small doses out in public and pop culture around the early 2000's, I can't say that was the key that unlocked it for me. I came across Basement Jaxx's "Red Alert" in high school and eventually found my way into their discography, but even that didn't send me down the rabbit hole proper (that and the Jaxx were more house than garage anyway). Smokin' Beats' "Jazz House" found its way into my YouTube suggestions half-way thru college, but that wasn't the jumpoff either. No, the fascination really gelled together when I was in college. Around the tail end of college (2013 for me, which ironically enough would've been ), I was looking into some remix work Armand van Helden had done since I had only known him at that point for "U Don't Know Me" (classic tune) and his work with Duck Sauce. I came across his remix for Sneaker Pimps and fell in love with that NASTY bassline. I immediately began to jones for more.

One quick trip to Wikipedia later and I have a genre to search for: "Speed Garage." From there I came across a mix on a YouTube channel called "myspeedgarage" and just started grabbing whatever I could find. After enough digging around I found my way over to the other styles the UK had to offer, and I had become a full-fledged Garage head. Around this same time a certain pair of brothers from Surrey had started making waves online and in the actual flesh world too. My supremely naive ass wondered if their crossover success stateside might lead to more garage-tinged productions in American pop. Not my brightest moment in retrospect. Pop listeners in the states typically aren't trying to hear anything that doesn't cater to what they expect pop to sound like. The brothers Lawrence must've figured that out because they've since molded their music more to fit the American pop mold. To their credit, it has lead to more genuine hits with the likes of Lorde and Khalid. On the flipside, though, I can't say any of their poppier offerings from the past decade have really been that good... because they haven't; they're boring as hell.

I am happy to say, however, that in the past 5 or so years there's been a big resurgence in UK Garage, and this time you've got producers across the globe making this kind of stuff. That the resurgence has lead to UK Garage music making waves on the web (and the charts a bit) is neat. That a good chunk feels like a creatively solid progression from the styles of old is icing on the cake. Though I excised some more recent tracks that were on the list originally for older songs that eluded my memory at the time, I'm still pleased that the new wave has somewhere around a fifth of the list's real estate. Now I know all resurgences have their wax and wane, so I'm not expecting the creative juices in this resurgence to last forever. I could see the steam lasting for another 2 to 4 years perhaps. That being said, I'm more than content to coast along for now and just follow the new wave wherever it winds up going.

So here's my 150 favorite Garage tracks organized by tier (i.e. how much I like them), though tracks aren't ranked within each tier. There's a playlist on YouTube you can check out below, but you can also click a song's card to just hear that one song too. I've also included some filters and trivial bits of information because my sanity left me eons ago... but if you enjoy data too then hey go nuts.

If after this you're wanting more stuff to check out, I would definitely recommend scouring YouTube for DJ Mixes by the likes of guys like DJ EZ, MJ Cole, Todd Edwards, Jeremy Sylvester, etc. Also look for mixes OF productions by those guys. Big up all the people on YouTube preserving classic DJ mixes for the rest of us to enjoy. Mixes are just as worthwhile as pieces of music as albums or any of that stuff. Much love from yours truly.

YouTube Playlist

Top Tier

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4