A rare level of intimacy fostered Greg Hoy’s new album Yay for Effort. Hoy produced the ten-song collection alone in his California mountain home, writing, playing, mixing, and recording the tracks in the middle of immense personal upheaval. The personal dominates this work. The loss of several important people in his life such as his father, a professional mentor, and a college bandmate fueled many of the songs. The specter of the pandemic, fires, and floods likewise cast a shadow over the recording. The joy of being a first-time parent is there as well. It’s a watershed moment in a long artistic journey that shows no signs of ending. In fact, Yay for Effort sounds like a release that’s clearing the decks for the future.
The opener “Oh No” serves notice we’re traveling inspired territory. The sparse sonic landscape of Hoy’s melodic voice over a straightforward drum beat accompanied by acoustic guitar communicates a stripped-back approach. His lyrical slant is equally direct. It alternates between specific gut-punch brevity and effective if enigmatic imagery. The arrangement, however, is a bit of sleight of hand. Orchestration announces itself during the song’s second half to outstanding effect and leaves us dazzled by the song’s end. It’s an auspicious beginning.
The album’s title song maintains the same high standard. His lyrical perspective is downcast, but the artistry is unquestionable. “Yay for Effort” opens with a rumbling bass introduction and there’s a distinct simmering mood emerging from the opening verses that the song later builds on. His alternative/punk rock influences rise to the surface during crucial portions of this track and bring its emotions to a full boil. A smattering of atmospheric sound effects opens and closes the third track “Listen Up”. It finds Hoy in a reflective yet socially conscious mood, but he’s far too smart to “name” names. It’s instead a piano-driven condemnation of how our world squandered its potential following false idols and drowning in our misguided self-regard. The second half of the track once again expands on the arrangement with memorable results.
One of the album’s high points arrives with “Today is Not the Day to Die”. It’s another song spawned from his piano and has a loping tempo accentuated by the drums that tempers the urgency and desperation in its lyrics. Subtle electric guitar lines provide a crowning musical touch. “Comfort Vendetta”, the album’s first single, is a stormy guitar workout that finds some semblance of safe harbor in its verses. He’s otherwise ransacking his six-string during the breaks with a thrashing distorted guitar that underlines the song’s disdain. It’s an illustration of Yay for Effort’s diversity.
“Dim Sun (For Everyone)” doesn’t end Yay for Effort in a shower of sunshine and roses – far from it. The song, with its brief lyric, does conclude the collection with an audacious arrangement. It’s Hoy and an effects-laden guitar, nothing more, while the singer coos sweetly about suicide and lying down to die. He offers listeners little to no respite from the war in his head on this release – nor should he. Greg Hoy’s Yay for Effort demands to be taken “as is” – and it is a major effort by an extravagantly talented songwriter.