Style is a funny thing, especially when it comes to music where, for whatever reason, being openly judged comes with the deal.
Before we go any further, let’s stop and think about how the standards are so weirdly different for musicians. No one ever stands up in the middle of an opera, play, or modern dance performance and shrieks “You suck” at a performer onstage.
Yet that sort of thing goes on all the time in the world of pop music, whether you’re talking retro-rawk, pine-tarred alt-country, backpack hip-hop, Latvian grime-folk, steampunk-hardcore, or Miss Clairol hair-metal.
So being a musician is all about the strength of one’s convictions.
Let’s assume you’re not taking your fashion cues exclusively from Andrew W.K. (who is so admittedly awesome, no one would judge you for going the jeans, sneakers, and dirty white shirt route). That means you’re taking a chance every time you go onstage. You know deep down, before you’ve played a note, someone might yell “You suck” just because you’ve chosen to accessorize your Backstreet Boys vintage-T with ripped green-vinyl bondage jeans, purple crocs, and white-framed sunglasses you haven’t worn since the Hives were young and beautiful.
At the risk of putting things overly bluntly, you need balls to pull things off if you're going to fly even a lowkey freak flag. Gentlemen, that goes for you too.
And this brings us to the video for “Don’t Keep Me Guessin’” by Dany Laj & the Looks. The first thing that hits you is the way that Laj and bassist Jeanette Dowling look like they’ve just hit the Motherlode at Little Miss Vintage on Commercial Drive. (Yes, we’re well aware Dany Laj and the Looks are based in Sudbury, but seeing as our Canada ends at Boundary Road so we’re going with a hometown namecheck. So Little Miss Vintage is it for the best hand-picked, high quality hard-to-find vintage clothing from the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s).
Back the sartorial splendor of “Don’t Keep Me Guessin’”, which is the first single and video from the upcoming album Ten Easy Pieces. We’re talking caps and tweed coats that would impress the first edition of Mumford & Sons, and a beret, scarf, and polka-dot dress ensemble that screams ’60s Paris in the most chic of ways. It’s two minutes and 50 seconds of nonstop retro excellence: psychedelic blazers, leopard-print jumpers, and Peter Pan-collar shift dresses.
To Canadians of a certain age, the whole vintage clothes aesthetic will bring to mind the Barenaked Ladies back in the early years.
The big difference? The Barenaked Ladies’ dad-sweaters, oversized thrift-store shorts, and, riot-nrrd Scottish tams served one purpose and one purpose only: reminding the rest of Canada why it hates everything about Toronto except for Gordon Lightfoot, Jolly Tambourine Man, and the late great Swan Restaurant.
In “Don’t Keep Me Guessin’” Dany Laj & the Looks totally pull the retro thing off with an easygoing and beautifully self-assured effortlessness.
Entirely fittingly, easygoing and effortless is a good starting point for nailing where “Don’t Keep Me Guessin’” comes in sonically. Listen closely—which is to say stop focussing fetishistically on the clothes and retro cameras for a second—and you’ll hear everything from old-timey country to Cajun-tinted folk to paisley-underground pop. In other words, no one is going to be yelling “You Suck” at Dany Laj & the Looks anytime soon. Which, if you think about it, is the way that it should be—in more ways than one.