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Pop - Released September 18, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released October 6, 2017 | We Love Music

Taking place more than 30 years after their MTV-assisted breakthrough debut, MTV Unplugged: Summer Solstice captures the first acoustic concerts of Norwegian synth pop trio a-ha. Coinciding with the 2017 summer solstice, when the region has 20 hours of daylight, it was recorded in front of an audience of just 250 at Giske Harbor Hall on a remote island off Norway’s west coast. Special guests in the nearly two-hour, career-spanning set include Alison Moyet, who duets with Morten Harket on Minor Earth Major Sky’s "Summer Moved On," and American alt-country singer Lissie, who assists on "I've Been Losing You." Ingrid Helene Håvik from Highasakite joins the band on the soaring "The Sun Always Shines on TV" (Harket handles the song's closing notes), and Echo & the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch sits in on "Scoundrel Days" as well as a cover on his own band’s "The Killing Moon." While album producer Lars Horntveth did most of the show's elegant arrangements, which include strings, woodwinds, mallet percussion, lap steel, and instruments like harpsichord and harmonium, Martin Terefe arranged concert highlight "Take on Me," a poignant redesign with only a suggestion of the song's famous keyboard line. The event was released by Universal in eight different versions, including audio, video, expanded, and abbreviated editions. © Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 18, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

Anyone who dismissed a-ha as a one-hit wonder must have missed out on the band's fine debut, Hunting High and Low. Though the band spawned many further hits across the rest of the world, "Take on Me" exploded in the States and the group never cracked the top of the charts again. It's a shame, because the album contains a handful of songs that nearly match the manic energy and emotional crack of its big hit. Further, it's a cohesive album with smart pace changeups, and it rarely fails to delight or satisfy a listener's need for a synth pop fix. The opening kick is a huge one: "Take on Me" is a new wave classic laced with rushing keyboards, made emotionally resonant thanks to Morten Harket's touching vocal delicacy. It didn't hurt in the era of MTV that the song's video was a hyperkinetic blend of mind-warping animation and filmed footage with a romantic thriller's heart. Harket's hunky physique and cheekbones also didn't hurt the video's chances at heavy rotation. Getting past that video, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." is just as thrilling. Starting as a sad ballad, it explodes into something much more, as chugging guitars and operatic synths keep pace with Harket's evocative vocal stylings. If ever a 1980s song qualified as Wall of Sound, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." would be it. The remainder of the album sees a-ha switching deftly back and forth between dramatic overtures and classic new wave keyboard motifs. "Train of Thought" and "Love Is Reason" are reminiscent of early Depeche Mode or Camouflage, but Harket's rich voice and flair make them purely a-ha. The band explores decidedly European terrain in the theatrical "Hunting High and Low" and dances a pop waltz with the sweet "Living a Boy's Adventure Tale," coming across like a marriage between the Blue Nile and Alphaville. Delightful song snippets "The Blue Sky" and "And You Tell Me" act as frosting on the cake or as glue between the theater and the dancefloor. One can't escape the feeling that Hunting High and Low is a product of the 1980s, but with highs like "Take on Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.," and no lows in sight, a-ha's debut is a treat worth relishing. © Tim DiGravina /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 18, 2016 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released June 28, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

Anyone who dismissed a-ha as a one-hit wonder must have missed out on the band's fine debut, Hunting High and Low. Though the band spawned many further hits across the rest of the world, "Take on Me" exploded in the States and the group never cracked the top of the charts again. It's a shame, because the album contains a handful of songs that nearly match the manic energy and emotional crack of its big hit. Further, it's a cohesive album with smart pace changeups, and it rarely fails to delight or satisfy a listener's need for a synth pop fix. The opening kick is a huge one: "Take on Me" is a new wave classic laced with rushing keyboards, made emotionally resonant thanks to Morten Harket's touching vocal delicacy. It didn't hurt in the era of MTV that the song's video was a hyperkinetic blend of mind-warping animation and filmed footage with a romantic thriller's heart. Harket's hunky physique and cheekbones also didn't hurt the video's chances at heavy rotation. Getting past that video, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." is just as thrilling. Starting as a sad ballad, it explodes into something much more, as chugging guitars and operatic synths keep pace with Harket's evocative vocal stylings. If ever a 1980s song qualified as Wall of Sound, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." would be it. The remainder of the album sees a-ha switching deftly back and forth between dramatic overtures and classic new wave keyboard motifs. "Train of Thought" and "Love Is Reason" are reminiscent of early Depeche Mode or Camouflage, but Harket's rich voice and flair make them purely a-ha. The band explores decidedly European terrain in the theatrical "Hunting High and Low" and dances a pop waltz with the sweet "Living a Boy's Adventure Tale," coming across like a marriage between the Blue Nile and Alphaville. Delightful song snippets "The Blue Sky" and "And You Tell Me" act as frosting on the cake or as glue between the theater and the dancefloor. One can't escape the feeling that Hunting High and Low is a product of the 1980s, but with highs like "Take on Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.," and no lows in sight, a-ha's debut is a treat worth relishing. © Tim DiGravina /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 28, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

While not quite as strong as the band's debut, Scoundrel Days is still a-ha succeeding as a marketed "pretty boy" band which can connect musically and lyrically as much as any musical sacred cow. The opening two songs alone make for one of the best one-two opening punches around: the tense edge of the title track, featuring one of Morten Harket's soaring vocals during the chorus and a crisp, pristine punch in the music, and "The Swing of Things," a moody, elegant number with a beautiful synth/guitar arrangement (plus some fine drumming courtesy of studio pro Michael Sturgis) and utterly lovelorn lyrical sentiments that balance on the edge of being overheated without quite going over. Although the rest of the disc never quite hits as high as the opening, it comes close more often than not. A definite downturn is the band's occasional attempts to try and prove themselves as a "real" band by rocking out, as on "I've Been Losing You" -- there's really no need for it, and as a result they sound much more "fake," ironically enough. Other songs can perhaps only be explained by the need to translate lyrics -- "We're Looking for the Whales" isn't an environmental anthem, and neither is "Cry Wolf," but both also don't really succeed in using nature as romantic metaphor. When a-ha are on, though, they're on -- "October" snakes along on a cool bass/keyboard arrangement and a whispery vocal from Harket; "Maybe Maybe" is a quirky little pop number that's engagingly goofy; while "Soft Rains of April" captures the band at its most dramatic, with the string synths giving Harket a perfect bed to launch into a lovely vocal, concluding with a sudden, hushed whisper. The '80s may be long gone, but Scoundrel Days makes clear that not everything was bad back then. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 21, 2000 | WM Germany

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A-ha's sixth studio CD (seventh if their greatest-hits collection is included) came seven years after their previous album, Memorial Beach, and in that time it seems that a-ha mellowed out. They do not seem to have concern about attracting the youth/dance market, but instead seem to be focusing in on how to make perfect middle-of-the-road pop songs with '90s technology. This is not a criticism, as it produces several fantastic songs, such as "Little Black Heart" and the wonderful "I Wish That I Cared." These, and many others, are full of catchy, beautiful melodies and Morten Harket's vocals are near perfect as usual -- his voice has not lowered one octave since their debut. The one problem with this CD is the relative sameness to some of the music. The tempos do not change a great deal, and by the end the songs seem to run together. More variety would have been beneficial. However, in terms of production, this is as close to perfect as a CD can get, and the lyrics keep things interesting throughout. Overall, a good album, and one that fans will enjoy. © Aaron Badgley /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 23, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

a-ha's recording career hit the skids in America with its third release. But in the U.K., the album became the group's third straight to peak at number two, though it charted for a shorter period than the first two albums, and there were four Top 25 hits -- the title track, "The Blood That Moves the Body," "Touchy!," and "You Are the One." (Also included was a-ha's 1987 theme from the James Bond movie The Living Daylights, a U.K. number five that missed the U.S. charts.) Even in a country with a demonstrated affection for Scandinavians, however (remember ABBA?), that was a fall-off, if the decline was more gradual, and three albums in, a-ha wasn't demonstrating any development from its first hit, just more of the same and a little less distinctive. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 12, 1985 | Rhino

Anyone who dismissed a-ha as a one-hit wonder must have missed out on the band's fine debut, Hunting High and Low. Though the band spawned many further hits across the rest of the world, "Take on Me" exploded in the States and the group never cracked the top of the charts again. It's a shame, because the album contains a handful of songs that nearly match the manic energy and emotional crack of its big hit. Further, it's a cohesive album with smart pace changeups, and it rarely fails to delight or satisfy a listener's need for a synth pop fix. The opening kick is a huge one: "Take on Me" is a new wave classic laced with rushing keyboards, made emotionally resonant thanks to Morten Harket's touching vocal delicacy. It didn't hurt in the era of MTV that the song's video was a hyperkinetic blend of mind-warping animation and filmed footage with a romantic thriller's heart. Harket's hunky physique and cheekbones also didn't hurt the video's chances at heavy rotation. Getting past that video, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." is just as thrilling. Starting as a sad ballad, it explodes into something much more, as chugging guitars and operatic synths keep pace with Harket's evocative vocal stylings. If ever a 1980s song qualified as Wall of Sound, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." would be it. The remainder of the album sees a-ha switching deftly back and forth between dramatic overtures and classic new wave keyboard motifs. "Train of Thought" and "Love Is Reason" are reminiscent of early Depeche Mode or Camouflage, but Harket's rich voice and flair make them purely a-ha. The band explores decidedly European terrain in the theatrical "Hunting High and Low" and dances a pop waltz with the sweet "Living a Boy's Adventure Tale," coming across like a marriage between the Blue Nile and Alphaville. Delightful song snippets "The Blue Sky" and "And You Tell Me" act as frosting on the cake or as glue between the theater and the dancefloor. One can't escape the feeling that Hunting High and Low is a product of the 1980s, but with highs like "Take on Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.," and no lows in sight, a-ha's debut is a treat worth relishing. © Tim DiGravina /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 18, 2016 | Rhino - Warner Records

Norwegian pop trio A-ha has had their catalog revamped and repackaged a number of times since their inception in the 1980s, but 2016's Time and Again: The Ultimate A-ha brings their canon of hits up to date with the inclusion of material from each of their ten studio albums. The first disc of this set is generally concerned with their hits, beginning, appropriately, with the sunny synths of "Take on Me" and winding chronologically through the years to the sweeping orchestral ballad "Under the Makeup" from their 2015 LP Cast in Steel. The expected tracks like "Touchy!," "The Living Daylights," and their lush cover of the Everly Brothers' "Crying in the Rain" are all included alongside later-era cuts like 2000's "Summer Moved On," which was a number one hit in their home country. The second disc in the set is dedicated entirely to alternate mixes and remixes of their hits, some of which hold some historical value like Jellybean's previously unreleased 1986 remix of "Cry Wolf" and Justin Strauss' rare dub mix of "You Are the One." For the most part, though, the offerings from this disc seem a bit superfluous and the collection might have been better represented by adding some of the previously unreleased material that was included on their 2015 deluxe reissues. Still, of A-ha's anthology packages, this is easily the most career-spanning. © Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 23, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

East of the Sun, West of the Moon was a small surprise, too quickly destined for the cut-out bins considering the way a-ha finally went after Hunting High and Low. This is a nicely crafted collection of songs, performed and sung beautifully, with lots of echoes and suggestions tucked into the music. While not an album one can discuss at length, it's an album that's a pleasure to listen to and one that deserves a better reception than the one, unfortunately, that it seems to have gotten. © Steven McDonald /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 2, 2002 | WM Germany

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A difference from their last effort yet undeniably a-ha. This time, the Norse purveyors of quality pop have opted for a variety of producers, ranging from Stephen Hague to Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. The album begins with a lush ballad -- which is typical a-ha, pastoral with support orchestration -- almost like a modern day Moody Blues. "You Wanted More" also follows this trait, only darker with spiky electronics. "Afternoon High" sketches out '70s pastel glory similar to what Tears for Fears were getting at with parts of the Seeds of Love album. There are shades of Minor Earth Major Sky in that they keep the sugary neigh pleasant ballads vein to full emotional effect on "Turn the Lights Down," "Time and Again," and like MEMS's Garbage homage "Sun Never Shone." "Cannot Hide" opts for a Jennifer Paige "Crush" vibe with George Harrison-style guitar, while "Forever Not Yours"' pleasant dramatism echoes Darren Hayes' recent Insatiable. © Kelvin Hayes /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 3, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

Released not long after A-Ha’s twentieth anniversary, Singles 1984-2004 rounds up 19 of the group’s A-sides, beginning with 1985’s international number one hit single “Take on Me” and concluding with 2002’s “Lifelines.” In the U.S., A-Ha are often seen as the quintessential MTV-driven new wave one-hit wonder -- the pen-and-ink animation of “Take on Me” defining an era -- but the group had a long, fruitful career as hitmakers in Europe, and this collection presents an excellent overview of that career, containing such continental smashes as “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” “Hunting High and Low,” “I’ve Been Losing You,” “Cry Wolf,” “The Living Daylights,” “Stay on These Roads,” “Crying in the Rain,” “Summer Moved On,” and “Forever Not Yours.” It may not be enough to win over skeptics but it’s more than enough to prove that A-Ha were not one-hit wonders, and it will surely satisfy anybody who is wanting a solid collection of their biggest hit singles. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released November 4, 1991 | Rhino - Warner Records

Norway's a-ha took "Take on Me" to the number one spot on Billboard's Top 40 in 1985, thanks to the award-winning animated video that accompanied it. Still, a-ha contributed rather accordingly to the '80s pop sound, drenching their music with bouncy riffs and employing the keyboard as the foundation to their colorful formula. Headlines and Deadlines: The Hits of a-ha assembles all of their singles together, a definite one-stop for all of their music. Combining ballads and radiant '80s pop, this set includes their most fervent offering in "The Sun Always Shines on T.V.," which hit number 20 in 1986 and originated from Hunting High and Low, the same album that included "Take on Me." After this album, the band's next couple of releases, East of the Sun and Memorial Beach, were total washouts, which makes this compilation all the more worthy. Other notables include remixed versions of "Hunting High and Low" and "You Are the One," as well as the theme song to The Living Daylights. Though comparisons to Duran Duran are difficult to avoid, a-ha did harbor some distinct qualities in their glossy sound, and quite a few of their songs still contain some redeeming factors, but are better appreciated when lined up in compilation form. © Mike DeGagne /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 4, 2015 | We Love Music

Plugging a six-year gap and their first release since 2009, Cast in Steel is the tenth studio album from revered Norwegian synth pop trio a-ha. Starting without vocalist Morten Harket, the group have described the production process as a steady one, with Morten dropping in to record vocals on tracks that he liked until they eventually had ten to twelve strong songs. The record is the first to use the band’s original logo since 1993, and the first to be produced by Alan Tarney since their 1988 album Stay on These Roads. Cast in Steel features the singles "Under the Makeup" and "Forest Fire." © Rob Wacey /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1986 | Warner Records

While not quite as strong as the band's debut, Scoundrel Days is still a-ha succeeding as a marketed "pretty boy" band which can connect musically and lyrically as much as any musical sacred cow. The opening two songs alone make for one of the best one-two opening punches around: the tense edge of the title track, featuring one of Morten Harket's soaring vocals during the chorus and a crisp, pristine punch in the music, and "The Swing of Things," a moody, elegant number with a beautiful synth/guitar arrangement (plus some fine drumming courtesy of studio pro Michael Sturgis) and utterly lovelorn lyrical sentiments that balance on the edge of being overheated without quite going over. Although the rest of the disc never quite hits as high as the opening, it comes close more often than not. A definite downturn is the band's occasional attempts to try and prove themselves as a "real" band by rocking out, as on "I've Been Losing You" -- there's really no need for it, and as a result they sound much more "fake," ironically enough. Other songs can perhaps only be explained by the need to translate lyrics -- "We're Looking for the Whales" isn't an environmental anthem, and neither is "Cry Wolf," but both also don't really succeed in using nature as romantic metaphor. When a-ha are on, though, they're on -- "October" snakes along on a cool bass/keyboard arrangement and a whispery vocal from Harket; "Maybe Maybe" is a quirky little pop number that's engagingly goofy; while "Soft Rains of April" captures the band at its most dramatic, with the string synths giving Harket a perfect bed to launch into a lovely vocal, concluding with a sudden, hushed whisper. The '80s may be long gone, but Scoundrel Days makes clear that not everything was bad back then. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 13, 2009 | We Love Music

Norwegian trio a-ha announced -- 24 years after topping the charts worldwide with their iconic synth pop classic "Take on Me" -- that they would split following the release of their ninth studio album, Foot of the Mountain. Produced by Steve Osborne (New Order), their 2009 swan song eschews the melancholic indie pop sound that dominated its predecessor, Analogue, and instead neatly brings their underrated career full circle by returning to the melodic electronica of their early glory days. Opening track "The Bandstand" recalls the early noir-ish atmospherics of early Depeche Mode with its pulsating new romantic basslines, eerie spacy synths, and Morten Harket's yearning vocals, while the glorious OMD-esque "Riding the Crest," arguably their most infectious pop song since 1987 James Bond theme "The Living Daylights," sounds like a number from a classic Giorgio Moroder movie soundtrack. But despite some obvious '80s influences, Foot of the Mountain is far from a contrived attempt at trying to restore former glories. The title track, a reworking of "The Longest Night," a song from keyboardist Magne Furuholmen's previous solo album, A Dot of Black in the Blue of Your Bliss, is a soaring slice of emotive piano-driven pop/rock that would make Keane green with envy; "Shadowside" is a heartbreaking ballad whose string-soaked finale evokes the cinematic choristry of Sigur Rós; and the echoing effects, Chicane-style synth chords, and Peter Hook-influenced bassline turns "Sunny Mystery" into their most clubby effort to date. The inventive streak that runs through the album's ten tracks isn't always quite as successful. Closing number "Start the Simulator" is a brave but misguided attempt at experimental post-rock, based on a rather clunky space travel metaphor that reduces Harket's beautifully understated tones to Auto-Tuned anonymity, while "Mother Nature Goes to Heaven" is a wishy-washy and meandering attempt to highlight the plight of the environment, which suggests the band is much better at tackling more personal themes than heavy-handed issues. But while many acts bow out of their careers with lackluster and hastily assembled efforts, Foot of the Mountain is the sound of a band you feel has much more to offer. If this is to be a-ha's final LP, then they've undeniably gone out on a high. © Jon O'Brien /TiVo
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25

Pop - Released July 19, 2010 | Rhino - Warner Records

Released to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary, the double-disc 25: The Very Best of a-ha is not for the casual listener. At 39 tracks, it is quite exhaustive, so anybody thinking that there was no more to the band than “Take on Me” will likely grow restless, but those fans who have stuck with the band through a quarter century will find this to be a worthy tribute, as it mixes up the expected -- “Take on Me,” “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” “Scoundrel Days,” “Crying in the Rain” -- with the unexpected in the form of several exclusive single remixes and DJ edits. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 2, 1988 | Warner Records

a-ha's recording career hit the skids in America with its third release. But in the U.K., the album became the group's third straight to peak at number two, though it charted for a shorter period than the first two albums, and there were four Top 25 hits -- the title track, "The Blood That Moves the Body," "Touchy!," and "You Are the One." (Also included was a-ha's 1987 theme from the James Bond movie The Living Daylights, a U.K. number five that missed the U.S. charts.) Even in a country with a demonstrated affection for Scandinavians, however (remember ABBA?), that was a fall-off, if the decline was more gradual, and three albums in, a-ha wasn't demonstrating any development from its first hit, just more of the same and a little less distinctive. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 29, 2017 | We Love Music