Himalayan Bear: Hard Times Review
You may recognize Ryan Beattie (aka Himalayan Bear) from the somewhat more popular band he plays guitar for, Frog Eyes. However, Himalayan Bear doesn’t quite cover the same ground as Frog Eyes, and some might prefer Beattie’s croon over the vocals of Carey Mercer. The recording takes things into a more Neil Young direction or something that could sound close to more recent bands like 16 Horsepower or Sparklehorse. Hard Times is the 3rd Himalayan Bear record but will be the first released in the U.S.
Beattie isn’t one to keep things short (the shortest song here is slightly over 4 minutes), but it helps establish the dark mood of the record. The opening title track is a beautiful opener, a tremoloed waltz which showcases Beattie’s 50s crooner style vocals. The songs all are well fleshed out by the players, throwing a few different things into the mix, like the saxophone in “How Could Death Contend?”. “Half Wit Son” begins as a slow Neil Young type number that builds itself into a slow, furious pound before closing out with one of Beattie’s best guitar solos leading into a closing wash of synth. The synth closing leads into one of the the more calm tracks, “Peace River,” and the slow waltz and croon of “Only Dreams Let Me Hold You.” “Man Of Fire” closes out the album with a dark drone.
Shortly before the release of this record it was announced that Hard Times would be the final record released on Absolutely Kosher after 13 years of putting out records. While it is sad that the label that has also put out records by bands like Pinback and The Mountain Goats is closing up show, Hard Times is a fantastic way to go out. Beattie crafts some great sounding songs and atmosphere throughout the record and keeps things interesting from start to finish. Keep an eye out for this one.
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