awry (EP, 2017)
Visit the Gretchen's Wheel channel on YouTube for more.
Gretchen’s Wheel is so much more than that voice, but we’d be crazy not to start there – after all, your ears will.
Lindsay Murray sings like shooting stars, like freshly-poured caramel, like white-hot lava, like the glow of fireworks just over the horizon. She brings so much precision and power to every note that everything else seems to fall away: guitars, drums, bass, walls. Food. Earth. Light.
It’s that voice that turned heads when the Tennessee-born-and-raised Murray suddenly appeared on the indie radar with 2015’s Fragile State, produced by Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, Big Star). Three more records quickly followed (Behind the Curtain, 2016; Sad Scientist, 2017; Black Box Theory, 2018). While four albums in four years would find most artists scraping the bottom of the songwriting barrel, Gretchen’s Wheel grew steadily throughout. Black Box Theory highlighted Lindsay’s development from singer-who-writes to artisan songwriter, offering a collection of fully-realized songs that showed her experimenting with melody and form.
After a quick “break” to record the well-received Moth to Lamplight: A Tribute to Nada Surf, Lindsay set about recording the songs that would become such open sky.
While the coronavirus stalled production, it also freed up a team of power-pop all-stars to lend a hand: most of Nada Surf shows up (Ira Elliot splits drum duties with frequent GW collaborator Nick Bertling, keyboardist Louie Lino appears on several songs, and frontman Matthew Caws lends background vocals to leadoff track “You Should Know”). “Interloper” features a pair of pop icons in Posies co-founder Jon Auer, who mixed, and Brendan Benson, whose inimitable vocals anchor the call-and-response chorus.
If Black Box Theory added to Lindsay Murray’s songwriting toolbox, such open sky expands Gretchen’s Wheel’s scope. Songs range from the earworm chorus of “You Should Know” to the sweeping “Sleight of Hand,” to the brisk, poppy “Shapeshifters.” Rhythms push and pull, and melodies take welcome, unexpected turns as verses break wide open. Those shifts allow Murray to both nod toward loss and doubt (there’s at least one dark moment in every one of these songs) and inject a note of hope – fitting for an album recorded alone at home, much of which took place during the uncertain first weeks of a global pandemic.
No surprise, then, that Murray pulls the album title from its final track, a cover of Guided by Voices’ “Learning to Hunt,” that tempers the ache of the original with an aspirational (and reassuring) warmth.
Murray began Gretchen’s Wheel as a sort of laboratory project for herself; and accordingly, she’s used each project to test ideas and play with technique. And each of those tests has paid off, rewarding both Lindsay and her fans with collections of ever more sophisticated songs. such open sky is, in that sense, a perfect encapsulation of who Murray is now – a gifted, ambitious, accomplished singer and songwriter who – remarkably – is still nowhere near the limits of her talent.
- Craig Dorfman
Moth to Lamplight: A Tribute to Nada Surf - Best LPs of 2019 - #43
The Big Takeover
"Lindsay Murray’s Gretchen’s Wheel has shared a beautiful and loving tribute to the indie powerhouse Nada Surf...her attention to detail, passion for the songs and respect for the original songwriting only makes this collection more haunting and elevated." Art Jipson's Best of 2019, "Your Tuesday Afternoon Alternative" WUDR
"Gretchen’s Wheel is Murray’s vehicle for her chiming, exquisitely melodic songwriting and wonderfully tuneful vocals...[Black Box Theory] is perhaps best described as deeply thoughtful, tempering the [power pop] genre’s sometime predilection for sunny optimism with something a great deal more realistic and grounded. That Murray takes this approach and applies her many melodic gifts to the process is commendable. The hooks are still there to draw listeners in." Full review on Musoscribe
"[Black Box Theory] is a fine collection of songs. I defy anyone to write a song better than "Funny Thing," the songwriting standard here is incredibly high." Full review on I Don't Hear a Single
"...she knows the right elements to help her songs come to life with a vibrancy, urgency and emotion that not many are able to do with this kind of ease...And with Sad Scientist, her talents as a producer almost take away from the fact that she’s also the performer. Crisp and bold; alive and colored with nuances, this album leaps right out at you from the start." Full review on POPDOSE
"Nashville-based Lindsay Murray’s second project as Gretchen’s Wheel is a meaty, inspired collection of songs imbued with powerful emotion...Catchy melodies and intelligent songwriting abound." Full review on Pure Pop Radio
"Behind The Curtain is a powerful set, a collection that threads melancholy self-examination through a series of shimmery, appealing tunes anchored by Murray’s instantly memorable voice." Full review on The Daily Vault