Here’s a project I’m really excited about - Manual Coffee Maker No. 1 by Manual Goods.
I learned 90% of everything I know about coffee (still very little) from Overextracted, the blog run by one of Manual Goods’ founders. I’ve been watching this idea develop over the past year and, as I’ve become more and more fluent in the language of coffee, I find myself coveting it a little more each day. 
So I’m really excited that I had the opportunity to give some money to the Kickstarter to get this thing off the ground - and it’s especially cool that it’s not only the coffeemaker that is launching, but a whole line of philosophically similar products are also launching via the Manual Goods brand. Everything is centered around slowing down and focusing on the ritual of creating something with your hands - “craft over convenience.” And I’m really in love with this idea and can’t wait to watch Manual grow.
Check out Overextracted and start figuring out coffee, check out Manual and their current lineup of goods, and check out the Manual Coffee Maker No. 1’s Kickstarter.

Here’s a project I’m really excited about - Manual Coffee Maker No. 1 by Manual Goods.

I learned 90% of everything I know about coffee (still very little) from Overextracted, the blog run by one of Manual Goods’ founders. I’ve been watching this idea develop over the past year and, as I’ve become more and more fluent in the language of coffee, I find myself coveting it a little more each day. 

So I’m really excited that I had the opportunity to give some money to the Kickstarter to get this thing off the ground - and it’s especially cool that it’s not only the coffeemaker that is launching, but a whole line of philosophically similar products are also launching via the Manual Goods brand. Everything is centered around slowing down and focusing on the ritual of creating something with your hands - “craft over convenience.” And I’m really in love with this idea and can’t wait to watch Manual grow.

Check out Overextracted and start figuring out coffee, check out Manual and their current lineup of goods, and check out the Manual Coffee Maker No. 1’s Kickstarter.

(above image, design by Kyle Fletcher pulled from Dribbble. You can buy an awesome t-shirt with this design from Good Beer Hunting here.)
This weekend I finally got cider. I had always liked the stuff enough, from the mass-produced Mike’s swill that I drank as a high schooler, to the more artisan versions picked up from the Whole Foods down the way. But I never saw it as transcendent the way I look at beer. 
But then I had Virtue Cider's The Mitten. I have had this cider before, many times even, dating back to about a year ago. It's a bourbon barrel aged cider blended with a cider freshly produced from this year's crop. And it's delicious. 
There’s a lot of depth in this drink - you taste those apples right up front, and then you sink into the layers of bourbon - vanilla, caramel and oak float across your tongue, perfect complements to the acidity of the apples. 
I drank a few small glasses of this at this past weekend’s Naperville Winter Ale Festival, a small gathering in the west suburbs of Chicago, with my friends Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting, and illustrator Andrew R. Wright. Chicago’s breweries were well represented there, from Pipeworks, to Solemn Oath, to the perennial festival heavy-hitter, Goose Island. But there were a scant two cideries, as far as I could tell, in Vander Mill and Virtue. Andrew grabbed me a glass of The Mitten and let me know that it was a pretty flawless way to start a day, and he was right. Perfectly light and beautifully complex, it gave you something to think about without weighing you down. 
Virtue is the perfect cider ambassador, with a catalog of fantastic offerings. I’ve had a few of them, and the new context of enjoying the Mitten helped me retroactively recall some of their other ciders, like the funky, sour Percheron (made with Brettanomyces!), the tart, lemony Spanish Cidre de Nava, and the wine-barrel-aged Lapinette. They’ve opened my eyes about what cider can be.
And they’re the latest in a long line of Michigan artisans that strengthen this inextricable link between Chicago and Michigan. I grew up near Fort Wayne, Indiana, less than an hour and a half from Dark Horse Brewing in Marshall, Michigan. Just a straight shot up I-69, I never visited the place while I lived there. And while I still haven’t, I feel more strongly connected to the place than I ever did living in northeastern Indiana. It’s so much more well represented here on tap lines, as are places like Founders, Bell’s, and Greenbush (well, Bell’s has a pretty huge presence in and around my hometown - probably even bigger than Three Floyd’s).
Whatever the reasons, I’m happy to have Michigan cider and beer more prevalent in my life. And I can’t wait to have a glass of Percheron with my next Sunday paper.

(above image, design by Kyle Fletcher pulled from Dribbble. You can buy an awesome t-shirt with this design from Good Beer Hunting here.)

This weekend I finally got cider. I had always liked the stuff enough, from the mass-produced Mike’s swill that I drank as a high schooler, to the more artisan versions picked up from the Whole Foods down the way. But I never saw it as transcendent the way I look at beer. 

But then I had Virtue Cider's The Mitten. I have had this cider before, many times even, dating back to about a year ago. It's a bourbon barrel aged cider blended with a cider freshly produced from this year's crop. And it's delicious. 

There’s a lot of depth in this drink - you taste those apples right up front, and then you sink into the layers of bourbon - vanilla, caramel and oak float across your tongue, perfect complements to the acidity of the apples. 

I drank a few small glasses of this at this past weekend’s Naperville Winter Ale Festival, a small gathering in the west suburbs of Chicago, with my friends Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting, and illustrator Andrew R. Wright. Chicago’s breweries were well represented there, from Pipeworks, to Solemn Oath, to the perennial festival heavy-hitter, Goose Island. But there were a scant two cideries, as far as I could tell, in Vander Mill and Virtue. Andrew grabbed me a glass of The Mitten and let me know that it was a pretty flawless way to start a day, and he was right. Perfectly light and beautifully complex, it gave you something to think about without weighing you down. 

Virtue is the perfect cider ambassador, with a catalog of fantastic offerings. I’ve had a few of them, and the new context of enjoying the Mitten helped me retroactively recall some of their other ciders, like the funky, sour Percheron (made with Brettanomyces!), the tart, lemony Spanish Cidre de Nava, and the wine-barrel-aged Lapinette. They’ve opened my eyes about what cider can be.

And they’re the latest in a long line of Michigan artisans that strengthen this inextricable link between Chicago and Michigan. I grew up near Fort Wayne, Indiana, less than an hour and a half from Dark Horse Brewing in Marshall, Michigan. Just a straight shot up I-69, I never visited the place while I lived there. And while I still haven’t, I feel more strongly connected to the place than I ever did living in northeastern Indiana. It’s so much more well represented here on tap lines, as are places like Founders, Bell’s, and Greenbush (well, Bell’s has a pretty huge presence in and around my hometown - probably even bigger than Three Floyd’s).

Whatever the reasons, I’m happy to have Michigan cider and beer more prevalent in my life. And I can’t wait to have a glass of Percheron with my next Sunday paper.

I am writing about this a few days after his tragic death, and it’s been a heartbreaking, but beautiful few days of revisiting Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s body of work. There are so many highlights across his career, a few of my favorites being his role as Lester Bangs in Almost FamousCayden Cotard in Synecdoche, New York, and Scotty in Boogie Nights, but my all-time favorite is his stunning performance as Lancaster Dodd, a cult leader of sorts, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Every performance in this movie is a tour de force, but none more so than Hoffman. His intensity barely conceals the rage beneath the surface, and you can’t take your eyes off him in just about any scene he’s in, especially the infamous “informal processing” scene. But my personal favorite is the above scene, where Dodd is questioned by a skeptic and sputters his defense, red-faced. It’s a stunning display of control, as even as the rage rises and Dodd’s almost Tourette’s-like explosion gets the better of him, he reels it back in with more restraint than most any other actor would be able to. There is a volcanic rage contained within two syllables, and I can’t think of another actor capable of that scene.

Music For Thought, Vol. 4 (Feb. 1 - Feb. 7)

The weather is killing me. I’m a broken person. I feel like I will never leave my apartment for non-work reasons again. I may never again drive a vehicle. I have subsisted on delivery Chinese and pizza, and some leftovers in the fridge since New Year’s Day. And despite all this, I’ve gotten to listen to an astoundingly small amount of new music. I am confined to my couch, eyes affixed on the TV screen, watching nothing noteworthy all night. My week’s worth of commuting consisted of listening to podcasts about Peyton Manning’s tragic arc, and about the truly devastating news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death and his extraordinary career. But I haven’t listened to much this week outside of talk radio and the shifting of the icy tectonic plates outside.

Being an adult, at least in my experience, is full of weeks like this. You’re either too beat or too busy to even get up to cook dinner, let alone listen to music and think about its value. Much less even set aside some time to write about your experiences. It took everything I had to sit down at my computer tonight and start typing. I set aside an hour or two (or more) each Tuesday to focus as much as I can and articulate my thoughts, and if I haven’t listened to anything yet, I try to at least put together a playlist of the stuff I want to hear. Then I save a draft, and update my thoughts throughout the week as I hear more and more of the music I’ve decided to listen to. So Tuesdays are sort of my “drawing board” days and I look forward to them. Most weeks. But this week it’s hard to drag myself out of bed and face the arctic chill, trudge through the dirty snow to the train, and sit in an office for eight hours. So there isn’t going to be much this week. Winter is crushing me.

But I’ve been giving Sun Kil Moon’s new album Benji some rotation whenever I get a chance. Mark Kozelek has always made the kind of music that I find my self striving to enjoy despite not always quite getting there. I understood the cult following, and I wanted to be a part of it, but I just couldn’t commit entirely. So far, a few listens in, I’m feeling a lot of those same feelings, but I don’t know if it’s this year’s gray, painfully cold and long winter or something else, but I’m able to connect with the music a lot more than I used to. They’re all story songs, as most (at least I think) Sun Kil Moon songs are, and I don’t even know if they’re better than most Sun Kil Moon songs, but they’re more direct, and more modern. Ian Cohen, in his review for Pitchfork, addressed Kozelek’s last album, Among the Leaves, which was basically the equivalent someone’s dad discovering social media. Well, not really, but there was a lot of oversharing and portraits of a small moment of a small day. 

Benji seems like a streamlining of that album, a refinement. It’s stream of consciousness. It’s direct and unobscured. And maybe Sun Kil Moon songs used to sound dusty and old to me, or maybe their cover artwork just made me think that, but this album is effortless to me, and it isn’t like work trying to connect.

markrichardson

Anonymous asked:

Any book recommendations for a starting-out music writer?

markrichardson answered:

Here are six:

1) Out of the Vinyl Deeps by Ellen Willis. For figuring out how to analyze and integrate your own reactions with broader socio-political context into criticism that is personal to the writer and accessible to the reader while being packed with ideas and insight. 

2) The Heart Of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made by Dave Marsh. Broadly speaking, I’ve never been a fan of Dave Marsh. But if you are going to write about music, you’re going to find yourself writing lists and blurbs from time to time (if you are lucky, it’s only from time to time). And I think this is a fantastic primer for the art of blurb writing. Every approach to the blurb is represented here somewhere and done well. 

3) Energy Flash: A Journey through Rave Music and Dance Culture by Simon Reynolds. The best book I know for figuring out how to explore and articulate emotional meaning of sound. Most music criticism is heavily weighted toward lyrics, and this shows you another way. 

4) Mystery Train by Greil Marcus. Shows you how to burrow deeper into a song or artist to turn up something new. Obviously a cornerstone of U.S. pop criticism also. 

5) The Recording Angel: Music, Records and Culture from Aristotle to Zappa by Evan Eisenberg. The best book I’ve ever read about music and technology and how the interface between the two has changed our hearing. Probably had the strongest reaction to this of any book on music I’ve read, really rewired my brain. 

6) Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties by Ian MacDonald. If you write about music for any length of time, you’ll eventually have to grapple with the shifting meaning and quality of a band’s catalogue over time, and this is the best single example I know of to show how it’s done. 

I’m basically a blurb-only writer, which is certainly a problem of my own doing, but this list is really inspiring and I can’t wait to check out some of these books, especially Energy Flash.

Music for Thought, Vol. 3 (Jan. 25 - Jan. 31)

One month of 2014 down - and good riddance. It’s been a frozen wasteland here in Chicago. It’s been around -40 degrees on four occasions, and there’s so much snow. It’s been the worst winter of my life, or at least for as long as I can remember. 

Civilia Demo | Isaiah Rashad

Luckily, there’s been some good tunes to check out in the meantime, the most notable being Civilia Demo. It sounds like the first post-good kid, m.A.A.d. city hip-hop album, or at least a very close peer. Not necessarily in terms of quality, because I haven’t listened to it nearly enough to make some kind of grand statement like that, but certainly in terms of vibe. It’s not as tightly wound, but a lot of the sensibilities are the same. It’s also not nearly as “cinematic” - it just sounds like a kid spun that record over and over and over in his room and then put together a mixtape and told the producer, “Make it sound like THAT.” And it does! It’s an excellent little debut and it makes me really excited about the dude’s future. TDE is poised for another monster year with Schoolboy Q’s next record scheduled for later this year, and this is a big time way to kick it off.

Too True | Dum Dum Girls

This one is a little more of a disappointment. I thought Only In Dreams was a truly great album, by one of the great developing voices in indie rock. “Coming Down” especially felt like actually coming down from the high after a party, after a great first kiss, etc. But it just doesn’t seem like there is a lot to love on this album - it feels a lot slighter. Maybe repeated listens will help a bit, but for now, I’m really disappointed in this one after being really excited after seeing it was going to be released soon.

Singles Roundup

I didn’t do any of this last time, but this is a developing thing that I’m trying out, so bear with me in the early stages. It didn’t make sense to just try to write about albums when music culture is basically a barrage of singles anymore, so here’s my thoughts on a few old and a few new. A lot of this stuff really bodes well for 2014!

"Brains" by Banks

I honestly can’t remember the names of the other songs I’ve heard from Banks, which is sort of embarrassing, but I remember really liking them. I saw this one floating around the internet this past week, and got reallyexcited. It pulses and slinks around, and it sounds like what you hear in your head at 4am in at a party or something, ready to go home, nothing that happens from here is going to be good, so on and so on. It’s so much bigger than the songs I remember from this past fall.

Yumi Zouma

I heard about Yumi Zouma on Gorilla vs. Bear (they’ve been posting pretty much every track on her new EP over the past week) and I think I’m buying into the hype. It’s lovely, dreamy music, evoking the music of the 70s without necessarily sounding like it’s from that decade. It sounds timeless. Definitely something I’ll be revisiting throughout the year.

"Wanderlust" by Wild Beasts

I was a sophomore in college when Wild Beasts’ first album came out, and a member of the Radiohead fan forum At Ease (but I only really contributed to the off-topic music board, i.e. non-Radiohead talk) and I remember people freaking out about it. It was an album I either didn’t like at the time or just didn’t get, but either way, I didn’t give them much thought. I checked this song out almost as an afterthought, a few months after it dropped, and I’m blown away. That coda is incredible with the building “Don’t mistake me for someone who gives a fuck.” It’s devastating, and empowering at the same time. 20-year-old me could probably never picture it, but I’m really looking forward to the new album.

"Chorus" by Holly Herndon

This is a really weird, super interesting song. It just songs like something in the midst of transforming, a contortionist escaping from a box. Too many times on repeat might have made it really hard for me to sleep and given me a headache, but it’s a song that you can get lost in over and over again.

"Passing Out Pieces" by Mac DeMarco

was one of my favorite albums of 2012, and this song just hypes me up so hard for the coming year. The Beatles-esque aspects of his sound really show in this song - it’s sunshine bursting through the seams. Really beautiful stuff.

Music for Thought, Vol. 2 (2013 Catch-Up!)

So, this weekend, while performing some truly mundane tasks, I finally listened to Beyonce’s “secret album” that dropped at the very end of last year. I had heard “XO” and thought it was good, but as someone who’s never been a huge Beyonce fan, it didn’t really pique my interest in hearing more. But so many people have been talking about it, it sort of felt like a duty, so I gave it a chance. And I love it. In particular, I can’t stop listening to “Partition” and I don’t think I ever will. It’s massive, and the way it just spins on a dime into a whole different section is amazing. The album as a whole is far and away the best thing I’ve ever heard from Yonce, and it retroactively muscles its way to the upper echelon of my “Best of 2013” list, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at the end of the decade, we’re still talking about this record. And you know, there’s a lot of hyperbole going on right now because I listened to this album like 4 times and I’m riding the belated buzz train on it, but it just goes down so smooth. I can’t get over the vibe the whole thing is giving off - it’s like steam rolling out of a hot car on a cold night.

In another bit of catch-up to cross off the list, I’m carving out a paragraph or two to address the latest Burial EP, Rival Dealer. I’m certainly not as high on it as I was on the last two releases, Kindred and Rough Sleeper, but it’s still Burial and it’s still worth spending a few cold and gloomy days digesting. You can tell immediately that this one is different, just by the breakneck tempo of Rival Dealer,” and it keeps going through the almost-pop-song-in-a-very-Burial-sort-of-way “Come Down With Us.” It’s Burial evolving, and that’s always a fascinating thing to witness. I need more time with it, but it’s definitely “mood music” - I have to be in the right circumstances to enjoy it. However, the nice thing with this release is that it sort of sheds that feel a little, and I can see myself listening to this in a lot more situations than I can for say, Untrue.