Kamasi Washington

Kamasi WashingtonDo you like ambition? Do you like the live instrumentation Flying Lotus incorporates? Do you like Thundercat’s fleet-footed bass style? Do you like saxophone that’s so propulsive it might as well have a jet engine attached to it? Do you like the idea that the shimmering chorus parts that schmaltzified last century’s mass-market jazz could be redeemed and repurposed for the forces of good? Do you like feeling overwhelmed? Like you’re where you are but somewhere else at the same time? Like you’re just a tiny speck in a vast, complicated universe that you’ll never fully know but are grateful to be a part of? Would you have accepted a transfer to Sterling Cooper West, if given the opportunity?

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Top 10 Albums of 2014

Parks and Rec

Fun fact: When you wait until December 31 to finish your top 10 albums of the year post, your top 10 albums of the year post becomes, by default, your New Year’s Eve post! Before getting to the list, I just want to thank everyone who takes the time to read this blog, whether it’s once a week, once a month, or just this once. It’s such a gift thinking/knowing/believing that there are people out there who share your enthusiasms, and to everyone who left comments, retweeted links, reblogged posts, did guest posts, invited me to do guests posts, or interacted with YHT in any other way, thank you for being such awesome Internet buds.

Now for the 10 albums that meant the most to me in 2014:

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Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus

Wanna develop an obsession with death? Create a life.

At some point after my daughter was born — I think a few weeks after — it sunk in that I’d just created something that it’s my duty to ensure outlives me. From a zoomed-out, biological perspective, it’s like “Duh, that’s the point of genes and stuff” but on a personal level, it was a weighty epiphany. I’m not an architect who designs buildings, so I can’t point to some big thing in the physical world that will still be there when I’m gone. You could say (and many have said) that writing is an attempt to create something that endures after death, but if someone were to pull the plug on WordPress/Tumblr’s servers, 98% of everything I’ve written in my life would vanish in an ebbing tide of electricity.

Baby YHT, though — she needs to keep going. Not because I think my genes are superior and the world desperately needs them (my wife’s genes, maybe), but because Mrs. YHT and I brought our daughter into this world, and it’s our job to make sure she lives a long, happy and fulfilling life. When Baby YHT cries, it’s hard not to think “Damn. I did this to you” regardless of what’s upsetting her. It’s a little like that moment in teen movies (I can’t think of an example right now, but I’m sure I’ve seen it) when characters at a sleepover take painstaking steps to summon a ghost, and when the ghost appears, they get this scared and guilty look on their faces that says “Ok, what now?”

My dad didn’t like to talk about death. Even near the end, he had a hard time talking about dying and the necessary arrangements, and he and I never had a final heart-to-heart. That’s partly because I didn’t spend enough time at home when he was sick, and partly because the cancer in his brain affected his ability to speak, but I know from conversations with my mom that he had little interest in talking about what was happening. I can’t blame him — I wasn’t in his shoes and it’s impossible to know how you’ll react to death until you’re staring it in the face — but I’d really like to be different.

Maybe it’s morbid, but I think about death all the time. I live with it. I think about how I can be healthier, so I can see my daughter grow up to be older than I was when my dad died. I think about the family members and friends I love and how much time I’ll have with them. I don’t want death to be the elephant in the room — I want to shrink it by feeding it the attention and respect it deserves so that, eventually, it’ll be just as small and cosmically insignificant as I am. Or, better yet, something I can welcome when the universe decides the time is right.

I think that’s why I’m so excited about this Flying Lotus album.

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