UK Garage Top 23 of '23
Ultra G's annual mix covering his best tracks from the year is now out and he give's us his review of the year of 2023
Another year, another impossible choice for choosing the best 23 New UK Garage releases of 2023 but I gave it a good go.
This set is a steady builder for me and unlike many of my weekly shows where I have barely 15 minutes to order the tracks and listen to the intros, this one I could give a bit more thought to (although I still only started choosing the tracks 2 weeks ago 😊). This set allowed me to play the tracks out longer and mix where the producers aim for them to be mixed rather than me smash out 2 minutes a track to get as many new releases from that week out for the listeners to hear, so a welcome change of pace. I’ll now attempt to break down the thinking and give as much credit where I can for another amazing year of UKG.
The aim here is obviously to choose the best releases and this is where the ambiguity lays, some people love bass, others an eclectic 4x4 but I genuinely love all styles of UK Garage and am enjoying some of the places it is getting taken in its present form. I’ll never detract too far from its origins though, and I’ve chosen a couple in here that send me back to ‘97, one being Para’s track ‘Missing’ which captures that bumpy feel better than even some of the tracks that WERE released in ’97 didn’t manage to hit and I mixed in TC4’s version of the same vocal to show how different UKG sub genres can be whilst still working as tracks in their own right.
ZeroFG’s take on ‘Godzilla’, attempted by many others, could end up cheesy, clunky or over done but he places that sample perfectly over a stomping 2 step beat and the stuttered drop guarantees that Garage head nod and skank face that we all do in the car and its honestly one of my favourite releases of his and couldn’t be missed on this list.
Hutcher has had a stellar year and ‘Whine Up’ was one of many that I could have chosen from his catalogue, as Phonetix and Brainz mentioned on their recent Christmas ITG Awards vid, the original vocals and arrangements have to be recognised in a day where the same vocals and hooks can be over sampled and you have to give props for the attempt let alone the fact it really works and I’m looking forward to hearing more, both him Arfa and Efan are both ones to watch in 2024.
Zefer and Wilfy D’s ‘Shawty’ wins best vocal UKG track of 23 for me and no surprise considering the calibre of their releases, that drop from the intro gets me every time. A close second is Hyphen’s UKG Edit of ‘You Own Me’ which is very underplayed and probably why I’ve repeated it on my show a couple of times when I rarely have the space on the list to do that.
It was great to get a new Duncan Powell track on my radar this year too, actually several from his 9 Years EP and Riddler release. I, like many others have missed his style as its so nostalgic but sounds new at the same time, and this track mixes so well with Xamount’s ‘So Good’, another producer that manages to get that bumpy almost Tuff Jam-esque flow that is hard to replicate, so they both easily found a place in my Top 23.
Finally DJ Crisps, who has released a good few tracks over the years, has to get a mention for what I think is the Jazz Step track of 2023 in ‘Jazzism’, for both the drum arrangement and that killer double bass drop. The sax and piano also intersperse fluidly and I can listen to this just as easily at 120bpm as I can at 134.
There are too many tracks to mention that just missed the cut but a couple of highlights were Higgo’s ‘Let You Know’ remix, several Dmize and Big Drum Records tracks who both seem to release something of a solid standard every week, plus the Nine2 Records’ BWK Project.But in a year where coming in to the home straight you could argue it’s been slightly quieter than the past few, there has still been enough releases to keep my weekly New UKG Show so full so a huge thank you to every single producer putting in the work that I know can feel so underappreciated, there are many out there just like me that live for this music and as long as us DJ’s keep playing it, it’ll keep getting released.
I hope you enjoyed this mix as much as I enjoyed making it and I wish you a Happy New Year