On "Hard Times," the third album from Victoria, BC’s Himalayan Bear aka Ryan Beattie exhibits an indisputable level of ingenuity, a fetish for reverb and a voice that is as delicate as it is potent. Beattie may be best known as the front man of Chet or the guitarist of Frog Eyes, but he started making records in his early teens and has amassed a large catalog over the nearly two decades since. It’s his solo project Himalayan Bear which best shows his inimitable talent and remarkable voice, and "Hard Times" is his finest effort to date. "Hard Times" will be released on August 2nd, 2011 by Absolutely Kosher Records.
Much of the album hinges on tension and desperation, but his years of experience show in a subtle guarded confidence throughout the album’s seven tracks. Though the songs may inspire a deep loneliness, Beattie certainly wasn’t alone in the recording process. The chosen studio, The Last Resort, proved to be a social hub of the Victoria scene which allowed for brainstorming, last minute additions and a casual, but creative environment for the album to develop in. Instrumentation ranging from lap steel to trumpet to double bass all made their way on to the record, sometimes acting to ground Beattie’s vocals on tracks such as "Half Wit Son," but also at times drawing the listener into Beattie’s world on tracks like "Man of Fire."
"Hard Times" finds Beattie once again exercising his unbridled ability to take his listeners to an emotional breaking point, only to release his lyrical grip and lead them to another region of consciousness through a song by song lineage that is as beautiful as it is merciless. The listener is given full allowance to bear witness to sounds that may resemble the slow jubilation of a lazy tropical contentment or a foreboding acceptance of a hypothermic state where the brain tells a freezing body that everything is just fine. This is the true power of Beattie’s words and arrangements; his merits lie solely in his restraint, wavering on a threshold that can lift the heart one minute only to break it the next. "Hard Times" is a stunning album, a modern take on the old crooners of the 1950’s, a strange blue light cast on records played in the dark, a blood stain on a poodle skirt, evocative but clearly not nostalgic. Beattie finds the hollows of our hearts and fills them with sound.
"Hard Times" is the first international release for Himalayan Bear, following Canadian releases of "Lo Lonesome Island" (2005) and "...Attacks The Brilliant Air" (2007). He plans to tour in support of his Himalayan Bear pursuits for the next period of his musical life.