Dark night of the soul albums aren’t for everyone. Greg Hoy’s Yay for Effort won’t change people’s minds about that uncontrivable artistic truth. What it will do, however, is leave anyone who appreciates deeply musical and uncompromising songwriting slack-jawed with admiration. Personal losses and unmitigated upheaval abound throughout the album’s ten songs but, in the end, Greg Hoy still stands tall, creating musical art from the chaos and grief. Despite the mood of these songs, often dour, it is ultimately an affirmative statement because it finds an artist facing down personal pain and never flinching.
“Oh No”, the album’s opener, makes no bones about this. Four lines into the song and we’re already in the land of the dead, but Hoy isn’t shrinking into a little ball and cowering from the agony. Instead, he’s expressing his weariness, and resolving to move on despite his misgivings. The spartan music of the song’s first half metamorphizes into something much grander by the song’s end and sets a tone for everything that follows. The fully realized title song has a swirling, hypnotic quality set in motion by the introductory bass line. Many of Yay for Effort’s songs rely on strong dynamics for their final results and this is a prime example. The lyrics are among the best, if not the best, and it’s a subtle sign of Hoy’s confidence in the material that he places it near the album’s beginning.
“Today is Not the Day to Die” rates among the album’s most inventive musical moments. The mood of the song’s lyrics juxtaposed against the relatively jaunty arrangement is another example of dynamics achieving an inspired end. It’s hard to pin down the song’s demeanor; in some ways, it feels like barely suppressed panic but sounds resolute in other ways. “Fire Drill” oddly reminds me of acoustic Pink Floyd. It’s constructed primarily around Hoy’s voice, adorned with light post-production effects, and his acoustic guitar. The dread rife in its lyrics revolves around a single powerful image, but a variety of emotions rise fearlessly to the surface. It’s one of the album’s underrated gems.
The album’s first single “Comfort Vendetta” is a worthy choice for that slot. Hoy shifts gears into alt-rock guitar mode without the track ever sounding out of place. He continues diving headfirst into the same intensity that’s defined the album thus far and the strong vocal arrangement paired with his chunky distorted guitar chords will satisfy many listeners. The lyrics, as well, are as fine as anything else on the release. His dissatisfaction rears its dismissive head once again with the stylish “Silly Me”. It gains a great deal from unexpected musical colors added along the way and the acoustic guitar once again serves him well.
This is Greg Hoy, his heart laid bare. Not that he hasn’t done so before. This time is a little different, however. He’s ripped his mask, or rather his bandages, off and examines every relevant scar. Instead of sounding like a dire autopsy, however, it comes across as an artist digging deeper than ever before. It’s well worth your time. Greg Hoy’s Yay for Effort goes further than ever before for this veteran songwriter.