Growing up as a budding music fanatic in the 1980s and not fully realizing that music genres already existed, I had my own way of categorizing music based on how it sounded to my prepubescent ears. Anything remotely synth-based and highly stylized pop was “robot music”; “scary music” encompassed any artist who bit the heads off animals, spit blood, or was KISS; “Old people music” was anything I thought my parents would like. The hardest of all these sounds for me to pin down, though, was “crooked music”. As I matured, I came to know it as post-punk and new wave, but to my nascent ears, this was music that had off-centre rhythms, angular melodies, stilted, nasally singing, and an overall sense that the whole performance would implode on itself if someone breathed on it the wrong way.
It’s been ages since I’ve thought of the term “crooked music”, but listening to J Blissette’s new single, “A Series of Observations”, brought it back to me in crashing waves of nostalgia. Powered by bouncy rhythms and underpinned by a sweet sax solo, “A Series of Observations” oozes with post-punk cool and new wave kookiness. It triggers the same kinds of reactions I had to early post-punk acts like Elvis Costello and Talking Heads: that I was hearing the antithesis of every carbon-copied, cardboard-cut-out pop song on FM radio. I had stumbled onto some new and exciting, a perfectly imperfect sound.
Though I’m familiar with their work, I still find J. Blissette’s glammy, tropical vibes an unexpected treat. “A Series of Observations” exists at a confluence of musical styles, smoothly blending genres in a way that all the crooked music I listened to in the 80s never could. I don’t think of music as being scary or crooked anymore, and I refuse to consider what I listen to now as being for so-called old people. Regardless of the #TBT effect “A Series of Observations” has had on me, J Blissette continues to breath new life into familiar sounds.