When Greg Hoy first moved to the Big Apple from Pittsburgh (having spent a stint in emo band Sunday Driver) and established his own label, Dunket Records, he issued his fair quota of one-off projects and in-jokes which reinforced the concept of a "vanity label." But now, his output has matured to the point where Hoy -- the band, in which he plays most of the instruments himself -- has found a way with strong, time-tested melodies and a turn of phrase to possibly rival Karl Hendricks.
Using the strategy of listening to the end of the disc first to discover an artist's true creative depth, it becomes clear that Hoy has absorbed his share of left-of-mainstream pop from both sides of the Big Pond. The country twang and MOR mood of "Plenty" are reminiscent of Wilco, while the hopped-up psychedelia of "The Prize" smacks of Spiritualized. And the hidden 11th track, with its mournful tones, slide guitar and pristine studio harmonies? A Hoy matey, it's just the kind of "land shanty" that Boxstep might applaud.
But Hoy has covered all the bases -- the album's initial four songs are all spot-on in songwriting and production, and any of them could be a standout single on an edgy commercial station. Reference points for an aging populace might be XTC ("the clock hides its face and the cuckoo flies away" could be an Andy Partridge line) or Squeeze, but the kids might prefer singling out Built to Spill or Ted Leo, especially on the very catchy sing-along "Beep Beep Snooze."
Happy-go-lucky analog synth flavors mean that Hoy knows the value of a good '80s keyboard comeback, whether it's a record-store geek plugging Apples in Stereo or a mall waif panting after The Anniversary. And the mellow-ish "Optimistic Optometrist" (which frankly could be a Guided By Voices song title) frames Hoy's outlook in a lyrical perspective when he affirms "the answer's in a pop song." For him, it definitely seems to be.