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3 December 2014

Life Is Like A Box Of Records: Ross Middlemiss

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oday’s Life Is Like A Box Of Records is scribed by sound engineer and Little Anchors member Ross Middlemiss.

You can listen to his excellent music here: littleanchors.bandcamp.com

 

Michael Jackson – ‘Black and White’

Dangerous was the first record I ever bought, at the tender age of 8.  I remember scurrying home to put it on because I heard ‘Black and White’ on a Saturday morning music show.  This song is certainly not one of MJ’s best in his extensive repetoire of absolute bangers, but it holds fond memories for me.  I used to dance around the kitchen to this and terrify our cat in the process (RIP Tibbs).  MJ is still the king of pop, a masterful songwriter, producer, singer, dancer, choreographer, and a true eccentric.  Kate Bush is next in line to the throne.

Cocteau Twins – ‘Sugar Hiccup’

My brother bought me the Cocteau Twins’ greatest hits album, Stars and Topsoil, for my 15th Christmas.  I remember reading somewhere that the Cocteau Twins were the perfect soundtrack for a trip to the zoo, which I think is kind of spot on.  I was a bit of a space cadet in my mid-teens and this song perfectly captures that point in my life.  It also strangely conjures up the scent of Lynx Africa (cheers Mum), and the inverse is also true. This gift helped solidify the opinion that my brother is a super cool guy.  My brother actually informed a lot of my taste in my formative years.

The Cure – ‘The Figurehead’

It’s not really much of a surprise to a lot of people that I’m a massive Cure fan, because I have a bit of a reputation for being a bit gloomy and miserly.  In saying that, their career has cut across so many genres, including a glorious pop period, but I think Pornography is their crowning achievement.  Singling out ‘The Figurehead’ is easy because it encapsulates the entire record: lyrically impeccable, raw, and utterly miserable.  There’s a lot of honesty in there, and that’s a quality I’ve tried to incorporate in my own music.  The Cure are still one of my favourite bands, and I still play this record pretty regularly.  It’s also really good for clearing out your house party at the end of a long night.

Jeff Buckley – ‘Last Goodbye’

This was my introduction to good ol’ Jeff.  This song was playing on MTV2 as part of that Viewer’s Choice programme, and it grabbed me instantly.  That voice! It’s incredible, but I also learned a lot about playing guitar by learning how to play his songs.  He used a couple of alternate tunings in his time, and that opened up a lot of possibilities in a compositional sense.  He’s entirely responsible for me having to re-tune my guitar three times a set.  RIP Jeffley.

Converge – ‘Fault and Fracture/Concubine’

God, this is awfully angry isn’t it? I love Converge.  An ex-girlfriend and I went to see them at the Reading Rooms in Dundee in 2004, and there were four (four!) support bands on before them.  I ended up falling asleep on a couch in the venue and slept through the entire set, which will attest to my ability to sleep through pretty much anything.  I kicked myself for years afterwards, especially when I realised how great an album Jane Doe is.  For me, like a lot of people, Converge (and At The Drive-In) were a thoroughfare into a lot of post-hardcore, punk and emo.  From here, my tastes splayed off in so many different directions.

Faraquet – ‘Cut Self Not’

The View From This Tower is one of my favourite records.  Faraquet were my initiation into a lot of Dischord records stuff. .  Most people get there by way of Fugazi or Black Flag or other seminal bands, but I got there in a roundabout way.  This was the first Faraquet song I heard, and it remains a firm favourite.  Devin Ocampo is one of my favourite guitarists, and a great vocalist to boot.  The whole band are ridiculously talented, in fact;  bizarre time signatures, spindly guitars, that bass sound – love it.  Two of the members are in another band these days (Medications), and they’re also grand.

Christian Scott – ‘Litany Against Fear’

Anthem by Christian Scott is a fairly recent addition to the favourites list.  Admittedly, I’m not much of a jazz buff; I actually know next to nothing about jazz.  This album was introduced to be my a couple of friends who are au fait with the jazz world, and if I owned the vinyl version, it’d be kind of run-through by this point.  It’s a record I listen to a lot.  This is the opening track to that album, and it merges two things I like a lot; Philip Glass-style piano and noir soundtracks.  It reminds me of a miserable, bourbon-soaked night in New Orleans or something.  I went to see him earlier this year when he headlined the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, and it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen, period.  What surprised me was how inclusive jazz shows actually are.  He made a real effort to cover as much ground as possible.  I recommend that everyone go and see him play.

Kaddish – ‘To Another’

Kaddish are one of my favourite bands, and they’re also good friends of mine.  I’ve been privileged enough to record their most recent record, but this song’s from their first LP.  It’s a reminder to me just how special the Dundee punk scene is.  This song has that group chant at the end, and there have been several shows in Dundee (mostly at Book Yer Ane Fest) where the audience have been chanting along and generally just having a really great time.  Those are special memories; they remind me of good times.  This kind of behaviour’s not even exclusively reserved for Kaddish; I think Dundonian punk gig-goers are very welcoming and participative.  Every time I hear this song I think of those moments, and it makes me very happy to be a part of it in my own little way.

Elliott Smith – ‘Bottle Up and Explode’

I experienced the darkest period of my life in 2013, working through depression and anxiety.  Elliott helped me wade through the mire and emerge on the other side, if somewhat chewed up along the way.  XO is my favourite Elliott Smith album (there¹s no such thing as a bad Elliott Smith album, by the way), and this is one of my favourite songs.  It¹s perfect.  It gets me.  I often think it’s tragic that he unwittingly fought alongside me in my battle but never made it through his own; I’m sure a lot of people feel much the same way.  Another good man down.  RIP Elliott, and thanks.

The Mercury Program – ‘You Yourself Are Too Serious’

Not only is this a beautiful little song, it also exists as a benchmark for the audio quality of the records I work on.  My enjoyment of it is, therefore, quite bittersweet.  I’ll often load up this track after listening to a finished mix and feel almost immediately deflated.  It’s such a wonderfully natural sounding rendition of the song, and is as damn near perfect as an audio recording can be (in my opinion).  The record was recorded by a guy called Andy Baker, who is relatively unknown to me; if anyone reading this personally knows Andy, please relay the following message to him:

You bastard.

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