awry (EP, 2017)
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Lindsay Murray’s indie-pop solo project Gretchen’s Wheel returns with her fourth full-length release, Black Box Theory. The album builds upon the strengths on 2017’s Sad Scientist and will be released on the Futureman Records label on June 15, 2018 (June 1 on Bandcamp only).
Black Box Theory joined Murray with previous collaborator Nick Bertling on a 10-song collection that blends Murray’s clear voice with her aggressive, energetic power-pop guitar attack. Murray produced and recorded the songs in her home studio near Nashville, TN, and Bertling played drums and mixed the album.
Written and recorded between June 2017 and February 2018, Murray had a specific goal for the latest collection. “I’d recorded an acoustic 5-song EP called awry a couple months before starting to work on Black Box Theory, and it had been a great experience in learning to be more spontaneous and experimental with the songwriting and recording process. I challenged myself to maintain that same approach with Black Box Theory and to be as self-sufficient as possible,” she said. “I tried to boil the process down to the essentials, removing anything that wasn't fun...in a way, reverting back to the beginning, when I was recording purely for the enjoyment of it.”
Murray’s songwriting draws upon classic pop and rock sounds without ever becoming an exercise in retro. Black Box Theory continues the confident study in contrasts that has endeared Gretchen’s Wheel to audiences. Razor-edged guitars drive the album’s opening salvo, “Untethered,” as sweetly sung vocal harmonies float above. A bouncy rhythm underscores the melancholic sentiments of “The Maze.” The contemplative, album-closing “A Tourist” culminates with slow-burn distorted guitars.
Taking into account the upcoming album Black Box Theory, Murray has recorded four full-length albums with collaborators such as Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, Big Star) and Ira Elliot (Nada Surf). Gretchen’s Wheel also contributed a track to the recent Matthew Sweet tribute collection released by Futureman Records, Altered Sweet.
The name Gretchen’s Wheel is a reference to the song “Gretchen am Spinnrade” (Schubert, 1814; inspired by Goethe's Faust), alluding to the composition’s love-tormented Gretchen and her spinning wheel, which is analogous to an instrument. “I love the way the song portrays her mental anguish along with the spinning motion of the wheel,” Murray said. “Your instrument – whatever it may be – fuels your fantasies but also grounds you. I was so taken by this metaphor, I decided to make it the name of my ongoing project.”
"...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
"Overall a fantastic album and highly recommended." (Sad Scientist, rated 8/10) Full review on Powerpopaholic
"Murray’s meaty, thoughtful tunes feel like they straddle the border between introspective power-pop and succinct, catchy alt-rock. The muscular guitars are juxtaposed with Murray’s often-breathy vocals—think Aimee Mann times Melissa Etheridge divided by Emmylou Harris—even as her downbeat, at times self-lacerating lyrics remind of the Gin Blossoms." Full review on The Daily Vault
"Imagine Sloan fronted by Chrissie Hynde...One of the most underrated female vocalists around." Full review on "I Don't Hear a Single"
"The sophomore release from Nashville-based singer/songwriter Lindsay Murray [Behind the Curtain] finds her building upon her 2015, Ken Stringfellow-produced debut, Fragile State, and surpassing that record’s ample charms. Bearing a vocal similarity to Aimee Mann, Murray writes concise, catchy songs filled with emotion while never veering into melodramatics..." Full review on Goldmine Magazine
"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
"Despite Gretchen’s Wheel’s last album being produced by The Posies‘ Ken Stringfellow, it’s this album – self produced by Lindsay Murray – that hits the bullseye as power pop with an ever-so-subtle Americana flavor. The guitars jangle and shimmer in all the right places...There’s melody and muscle in equal measure, and even Murray’s songwriting – already her strong suit – seems to have improved on this go-round." Full review on Musoscribe
"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
"...Fragile State is an amalgam of everything that makes us essentially human. Not in an existential, hard-to-reach kinda way, but more in the vein of simply being alive and hoping for a better future. The ’90s influence is definitely present across the record...the mysterious “Masquerade Waltz” falls against an intriguing 3/4 tempo (no surprise there given the title) and creates a timeless, enchanting sound that’s wholly modern. Other standouts are the fuzzy, psychedelic-tinged “Why Try”; “Overcome,” which recalls the vibe of “Waltz” in its classical influence and heavy string presence; and the questioning closer “Total Loss,” in which Murray ponders what’s to come. Well, Lindsay, if your first record is any indication, only good things." Full review on POPDOSE
"...Lindsay’s smoky vocals themselves are reminiscent of the honesty of Aimee Mann and the etherealness of Elizabeth Fraser. Remarkably, this album could have easily been released in the early 90’s, and wistfully effortless slices of pop like 'Second to Last' and 'Why Try' would have found a perfect home on any turn of the decade teenage romantic comedy. As rootsy as all of the songs are here, there’s also a wonderful spacey quality as well, shown off best on the guitars and harmonies of 'My Lullaby.' Undoubtedly, however, one of the best songs here is the maudlin, string-laden 'Overcome.' It’s buried near the end of the record, but it’s a definite highlight. The entire album, however, is worth getting lost in, time and time again." Full review on The Big Takeover Magazine
"...Fragile State was recorded in Brooklyn, Nashville and Paris, an exotic combination you can hear in the lush, cosmopolitan feeling of the almost genre-less music. The album is essentially a collaboration between the talented Murray and producer/multi-instrumentalist Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, Big Star, R.E.M.), with Ira Elliot of Nada Surf playing drums on seven of the 11 tracks...Fragile State is a rich, appealing showcase for Lindsay Murray’s haunting songs and beguiling voice." Full review on The Daily Vault