Scott Reitherman, the singer, main songwriter, and creative force behind Seattle’s Throw Me the Statute, appears in the album art surrounded by computer equipment, a Yamaha keyboard, a melodica, and assorted other paraphernalia. You can tell by the fact that he’s barefoot that he’s recording somewhere comfortable, if not in his own home, then in someone else’s, and by the fact that he’s alone in the photo you get the idea that he has, up to this point, pretty much relied on himself to make the songs that wander through his head. And yet with Moonbeams you can hear him, almost song-by-song, making the transition from home-recording dreamer to real-life band leader. These fourteen songs range in texture from raw and confessional (“Young Sensualists”) to richly instrumented (“Groundswell”), from synthetically augmented to live and organic. It’s a journey worth taking, by all the evidence, because the more communal and band-oriented Reithermann’s songs are, the better they sound.
Consider, for instance, the very fine opener, “Young Sensualists”, which opens in a blare of Moog-y, synthetic keyboard, picking up drum machine beat as it goes along. The lyrics are offhandedly clever, sketching a friendship between young men who meet in passing, have good times together, then drift apart over a girl. It’s the kind of half-written, half-implied story, set against a minimal background, that Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s Owen Ashworth excels at, and it’s very well done. Yet, if you think you’ve nailed Reitherman into a genre slot, forget about it. By the third track on the disc, “A Mutinous Dream”, he’s on to broader, fuzzier territories, digging in with the guitars and putting the fizz into the melodies. The song will remind you of certain Guided by Voices songs (especially “Glad Girls”) with its inexorable, indelible melody slipping in and out of clouds of distortion. “Conquering Kids”, a couple of tracks later, is another thing altogether, a dreamy, reverbed wash of distant sounds, layered voices criss-crossing one another in accidental harmonies and counterparts.
Reitherman brings all these threads—the goofy surreality, the muscular rock arrangements, the billowy sense of melody—together in album highlight “About to Walk”. You can’t really get a handle on the song’s shifting mood. Its disembodied voices and percolating guitar lines argue for gentle melancholy. Its surging, clattering drum fills suggest something more ebullient. Like all good pop, it’s full of light and shadows, sweetness and sorrow, shifting not just with the changes in chord but with the perspective from which you look at it.
The disc gathers intensity through its mid-section, with the jazzy, brass-embellished “Groundswell” and the palm-muted, almost-punk popness of “This is How We Kiss” coming just about halfway through. Then it slows toward the end, with two trippy, Elephant Six-ish psychedelic ballads closing things down. The title track, which seems to remember a long-deceased grandfather, is kept from wispiness by a booming, insistent bassline and flourishes of trumpet. It is slow, but purposeful and full of quiet drama. “Things got lost in the moonbeams”, sings Reitherman, as the bass thuds its punctuation and the trumpet plays trills and runs. You can see why the track comes late, after the more obvious pop songs have hooked you in, but you can also see why Reitherman liked it enough to name the album after it. “Happiest Man on this Plane” is even more dreamy and evocative, full of cavernous echoes, and Sphinx-like mysteries of accordion, strings, and booming bass drum.
Moonbeams changes a great deal from song to song, but the parts fit together very well. The best bits are the ones where Reitherman strays the farthest from standard self-recording songwriter norms—whether through broader instrumentation, more collaborative band arrangements, or experimental production. The album is so varied—and so good—that it’s anybody’s guess where Throw Me the Statue goes from here, but it’ll undoubtedly be interesting. Highly recommended.