Great New Music in the Middle of 2014

Graffiti on brick wall that says Trains Across the See

A few weeks ago I got a text message from Melanie Ness, an old friend from my competitive swimming days in Worthington, Ohio. She said:

So… random question: What’s your most-played song this week? (…I need new music)

Although I responded to her with some specific suggestions, I figured others might benefit from some new songs for their old playlists, too.

Bleachers is a one-album band created as a side project by Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff. Songs off their first album, Strange Desire, are equal parts 80s synth and anthemic drum beats. I especially like Wild Heart, Wake Me, and Like a River Runs, although most people will love the optimistic tone of I Wanna Get Better the most.

In a reference to an Indian restaurant chain, Bombay Bicycle Club is a moody, melodic, guitar-driven indie rock band. Three University College School students—all of which 15 years old or younger— formed the Canals in North London in 2005, but then later adopted a fourth member and changed the name of their band. My favorite album is 2011’s A Different Kind of Fix, with highlights How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep, Lights Out, Words Gone, and Shuffle, the latter being my favorite. If you’re in the mood for bouncy, Brit rock, check out this awesome band with a deep catalog.

Slow, contemplative, and stunning, S. Carey is a percussive genius whose main gig is the drummer and pianist for Bon Iver but who also releases solo albums during tour breaks. His songs would play nicely with roadtrips across Iceland or boating during sunset. Try his newest album, Range of Light, for truly beautiful songs Glass/Film and Alpenglow.

With a little twang, reverb, and Bob Dylan-esque vocals, Philadelphia’s The War on Drugs is a great end-of-summer band that makes you feel as if the work day is over. I’m not a huge classic rock fan, but their newest album, Lost in the Dream, is decidedly modern and really good. Try out my favorite songs on the album: Under the Pressure, Red Eyes, and Disappearing.

So what do you think? Any other great new artists or songs that I should hear? Send ’em my way on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

40 Before 40 Bucket List

World map with pins

Some people create a bucket list filled with items that must be completed before they “kick the bucket,” which to me sounds a little too far in the future and also a little macabre.

There are others such as my friend, Danny Dover, who set a specific deadline that is much sooner. Why wait until the end of our lives to create new memories?

Since I didn’t quite finish my 30 Before 30 bucket list—I only gave myself about two years to get it all done—I decided to roll over the few remaining eight items into my 40 Before 40 bucket list. And here it goes.

Since I have ten years until I turn 40, I have until August 6, 2024, to accomplish these. And I only have one rule: the list cannot be modified after my 31st birthday.

  1. ✓ Live in another state
  2. ✓ See the Badlands
  3. Go to a rodeo
  4. Go to an MMA fight
  5. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  6. Visit Glacier National Park
  7. ✓ Visit Zion National Park
  8. Visit Mammoth Cave National Park
  9. Eat at three Michelin three-star restaurants
  10. Build a six pack (the muscle kind)
  11. Buy a same-day plane ticket
  12. Visit all fifty states
  13. Become a published author
  14. Go fly fishing in a river
  15. ✓ Ride a jet ski
  16. Ride on an elephant
  17. ✓ Fly in a floatplane (“puddle jumper”)
  18. ✓ Walk on a glacier
  19. ✓ Take a yoga class
  20. Take a dance class
  21. ✓ Take a cooking class
  22. ✓ Drink wine in France
  23. Drink beer in Germany
  24. Eat gelato in Italy
  25. ✓ Eat sushi in Japan
  26. Sleep in a tree house
  27. ✓ Hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
  28. Attend the Olympic Opening Ceremonies
  29. ✓ Attend a TED conference
  30. Participate in a flash mob
  31. Get a hot stone massage
  32. ✓ See an active volcano
  33. Go to an oxygen bar
  34. Attend an opera
  35. Go Zorbing
  36. Visit an island in the Caribbean
  37. Ride a sailboat
  38. Hike a portion of El Camino de Santiago
  39. Fish in a fjord
  40. Bathe in a geothermal hot spring

So there you have it: my 40 Before 40 bucket list. What do you think? Can any of you help me accomplish one of these?

Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ and let me know.

10 Best Ads of 2013

As a marketing professional, I probably notice good (and bad) advertising more easily than others. I guess that could be considered a curse to some, but I personally appreciate a well-constructed ad with a clear message and a strong focus on its target audience.

What are the criteria that make a good ad? There are plenty of professional opinions, of course, but in my mind there are just a few:

  • Be memorable.
  • Make a strong tie to the brand.
  • Appeal to a target audience.

This past year had some awesome commercials, marketing campaigns, and digital executions. In my opinion, these are the 10 best ads of 2013, although feel free to debate with me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Something set these apart and made them special to me.

10. Honda — “Hands”

It starts with Garrison Keillor making an alluring statement: “Let’s see what curiosity can do.” And then through technical trickery we’re taken on a jaunt through Honda’s many business arms as someone constructs each invention in their hands. I think this ad is brilliant at showing the breadth of invention that Honda has managed to produce over the years. We think of their engineers as tinkerers, thinkers, dreamers, and creators, and this persona is then subconsciously applied to their cars, motorcycles, and engines.

9. Kmart — “Ship My Pants”

With a clever play on words, Kmart managed to make everyone feel a little guilty for watching this in a public setting when others mistakenly heard another word besides “ship.” But because of the cheeky play, this ad was shared everywhere, driving up brand impressions for Kmart. In fact, the ad was so popular that they issued a follow-up, Big Gas Savings. You might also enjoy the wildly popular “Show Your Joe” ad for Joe Boxer.

Agency: Draftfcb, Chicago
Director: Zach Math, Bob Industries

8. Chipotle — “The Scarecrow”

Paired perfectly with a Fiona Apple cover of “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” this Chipotle ad features a computer animated scarecrow discovering the seedy underbelly of mass food manufacturing. The good news: there is a healthier way to feed people, and Chipotle is working hard to be that alternative.

Agency: CAA Marketing, Los Angeles
Animation: Moonbot Studios

7. Guinness — “Wheelchair Basketball”

Many a man has brashly brushed an embarrassed tear from his face after watching the twist at the end of this ad for Guinness beer. And I was most certainly not one of them. Really, I wasn’t…

Agency: BBDO, New York
Director: Noam Murro, Biscuit Filmworks

6. Nike — “Just Do It: Possibilities”

This ad is so perfectly Nike: quick, witty, challenging, and smashmouth. If you can do this, then try something harder. Don’t settle.

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Oregon
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig, MJZ

5. Tullamore D.E.W. — “The Parting Glass”

With absolutely stunning cinematography shot entirely in Ireland, I think this ad for Tullamore D.E.W. paints a picture that most men will remember as they enjoy a good whiskey with friends.

4. LEGO — “Let’s Build”

Appealing to both the desire to build within children and the inner child within young parents, LEGO nailed the feeling of camaraderie of mutual accomplishment through shared creation. Plus, who doesn’t like children with British accents?

3. Dove — “Real Beauty Sketches”

What hasn’t already been said about this heartwarming ad from Dove? The message resonates with women from any generation: you are more beautiful than you think.

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Brazil
Director: John X. Carey, Paranoid US

2. Apple — “Misunderstood”

My friends know how far-reaching my love for Apple extends, but how can anyone question this? Most people portray teenagers as selfish technology-addicted me-machines, but as a past youth leader I’ve seen them as more than that.

1. Ram Trucks — “Farmer”

I remember watching the Super Bowl with friends and the entire room coming to complete silence when this ad for Ram Trucks started. The unique combination of poetry and silence is haunting. And the tone of the ad is truly American, which is perfect for the intended audience of truck owners. This ad is groundbreaking.

Agency: The Richards Group, Dallas

Other Great Ads from 2013

KitchenAid — “So Much More”

OK, I guess I may be biased. (Full disclosure: I am an employee of Whirlpool Corporation, which owns KitchenAid as part of its family of appliance brands.) But I find our new “So Much More to Make” campaign so ingenious and fun. In each ad is featured “the maker” who delightfully challenges herself (or himself) to new recipes.

Maytag — “Maytag Man: Laundry”

Maytag is also a brand owned and operated by Whirlpool Corporation, but I just can’t help myself because I’m very proud of my colleagues for this new campaign. The Maytag Man is a relaunch of an iconic character which many people easily identify with the brand. And this time, his dry wit and strong demeanor are a perfect fit to carry Maytag into the future. Well done.

You can also watch a complete back-to-back YouTube playlist of my favorite ads of 2013.

So what do you think? Did I miss any good ones?

Michigan Brewery Tour

Michigan is known for good beer.

And there are new Michigan microbreweries and brewpubs popping up all the time. With the number of great breweries to check out, I figured it was time to create a travel list across the state.

On nights when the Michigan Brewery Tour is active, a number of my friends will carpool (with designated drivers, of course) to one of many breweries in southwest Michigan.

Here are a number of our potential destinations:

michigan brewery tour rating sheet card
I created Michigan Brewery Tour rating sheets.

For our first tour stop we’ll be checking out The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In true type A fashion, I created rating sheets for participants (although I mistakenly wrote “Michigan Beer Tour”). You can even hold a tour of your own. Just download and print copies of the Michigan Brewery Tour rating sheet, call some friends, and head out. Don’t forget to designate a driver before the drinking starts!

If you’re truly curious about the amount of good beer in Michigan, check out the newly-released Michigan Beer Film, featuring my hometown favorite, Greenbush! The same folks also made a custom Michigan bottle opener, too.

Let me know what you think via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Of Monsters, Limes, and Great New Music

Lately, I’ve been finding some terrific new music through friends, Twitter, radio, and retreats. If you’ve been pining for new workout tunes or road trip jams, then look no further.

  • Mind Games” by Leagues — My good friend, Daniel Deitrich, recently introduced me to Leagues, and I’m sure glad he did! They sound like a mashup up of Kings of Leon, Under the Influence of Giants, and MuteMath. But really, they’re a sound that I just can’t quite pinpoint. Yay for originality!
  • Tessellate” by Alt-J — This band is already getting a lot of attention from music critics, and for good reason. They’re a cross between Radiohead and Massive Attack with just a little bit of British flair thrown in. Filled with bizarre melodies and instrumentals, you should probably just listen to this entire album.
  • Praise Him” by The Royal Royal — For my Christian worship friends, you might check out this band. They’re pretty interesting musically, but I wish the lyrics were a little more advanced. Promising.
  • State Trooper” by Drop the Lime — Kinda reminds me of the Eurythmics crossed with some kind of movie soundtrack. This is a good song for working out. I originally heard it in the October trailer for Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise.
  • Sloom” by Of Monsters and Men — A friend asked me last weekend whether this was “hipster music,” and I said, “Yes.” He said that hipster music wasn’t all that bad. And he was right.

As always, feel free to suggest more by tweeting me @RyanRicketts.

30 Before 30 Bucket List

Inspired by Danny Dover and with some prodding by my own restlessness, I’ve been toying with a list of 30 things I want to accomplish before I turn 30 years old which I’m calling my 30 Before 30 bucket list. There is something to say about publicly posting these—maybe it will hold me more accountable?

I would call this my first draft since I’d like to get feedback before it’s final. But I’ve had a few of these on my list for over a year, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating by marking them as complete.

I have until August 6, 2014, to finish this list.

  1. ✓ Hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail
  2. ✓ Give a best man’s speech
  3. ✓ Drink a Guinness in Dublin
  4. ✓ Go whitewater rafting
  5. ✓ Visit the 9/11 Memorial in New York City
  6. ✓ Eat lobster in Boston
  7. ✓ Go to a house concert
  8. ✓ Learn how to make sushi
  9. ✓ Go stand-up paddleboarding
  10. Eat at Alinea in Chicago
  11. Go to an NFL game
  12. Live in another state
  13. ✓ Speak at a conference
  14. Visit Yosemite National Park
  15. ✓ Grow a plant from a seed to full maturity
  16. See the Badlands
  17. ✓ Visit the Hoover Dam
  18. Learn how to tie a bow tie
  19. ✓ Get a straight razor shave
  20. ✓ Take a bartending class
  21. ✓ Visit the Grand Canyon
  22. Go to a rodeo
  23. ✓ Become debt free
  24. ✓ Go to a hookah bar
  25. ✓ Get a professional massage
  26. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  27. Build a six pack
  28. Buy a same-day plane ticket
  29. ✓ Bake a cake from scratch
  30. Go to an MMA fight

Let me know what you think via Twitter or Facebook.

Songs for Summer Driving

Over the past few years I’ve developed a taste for summer driving during sunset with the windows down. Sometimes I’ll just take off into the countryside without a destination. Rolling hills, fireflies, and nebulous clouds receive bonus points.

The best nights are those where my music accents my mood. I’ve found these recently-released songs bring me the greatest amount of sunset-summer-driving joy.

Blogs are not Dead

With the recent addition of Reeder to the Mac App Store, which in its own right deserves much rejoicing, I noticed that my blog reading has substantially increased lately. Some have proposed that Twitter could be slowly killing extended-length written posts on blogs. And while that may be true, there is no shortage of great writers online who carefully cultivate online readerships with wonderful writing and targeted topics.

If you’ve been away from the blog scene for awhile or are simply looking for new material to digest, here are some of my favorite blogs as of late.

  • Oat and About Chicago
    Written by an anonymous and prolific amateur food critic, I have never seen so much attention paid to lowly oats. And the posts are chock-full of hilarious one-liners to boot.
  • American Drink
    Here you will find anything related to classic drinking culture including snarky comments on fancy establishments and expletive-laden attacks on marketing gimmicks. Cheers!
  • Daring Fireball
    Expertly researched, cross-referenced, proofed, and linked, this Apple-slanted blog boasts one of the highest readerships online—and for good reason. John Gruber is a pro at finding newsworthy snippets before anyone else. And goodness gracious, his analysis of the inner workings of Apple are usually spot-on.
  • Subtraction
    This blog will be especially interesting to those grid-based-design nerds. Written by Khoi Vinh, a former New York Times Design Director, you should always expect a precisely written post on current technology and its design choices.

I hope you like some of these sweet blogs. Feel free to send me some of your own in the comments or on Twitter @RyanRicketts. I’d especially like to see some good blogs on hiking…