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

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

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

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Pop - Released March 18, 2016 | Rhino - Warner Records

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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
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Pop - Released October 23, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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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
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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
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Pop - Released June 1, 2018 | 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
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Pop - Released October 23, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Pop - Released September 29, 2017 | We Love Music

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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
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Pop - Released September 22, 2017 | We Love Music

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Pop - Released January 1, 1990 | 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
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Pop - Released August 26, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

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Pop - Released December 1, 2017 | We Love Music

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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
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Pop - Released October 23, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

For its fifth album, a-ha varies its style somewhat, trying for a U2 approach on lead-off track "Dark Is the Night for All." This is a long way from the peppy appeal of "Take on Me," but just as far from an improvement. ~ William Ruhlmann