If you live in the United States and follow music to any degree, there's a good chance you didn't even realize the band a-ha is still around. Considered a one-hit wonder here for their 1985 mega-hit "Take On Me", the Norwegian band only scored one other Top 40 hit here in the States and hasn't had an album released here since 1993's "Memorial Beach".
Internationally, however, a-ha has remained huge selling over 36 million albums worldwide with numerous hit singles. Their ninth album, "Foot Of The Mountain", was released in June, although once again not in the U.S. And this is a shame as the album marks a return to the synth-pop sound that brought the band fame here initially and is as strong as anything in the genre I've heard this year. There definitely is a Depeche Mode influence on a number of the tracks, especially "What There Is", but bands as big as Coldplay list a-ha as an influence and there's plenty of the band's signature sound here too.
Lead vocalist Morten Harket soars throughout the album. Truly a unique voice in pop music, Harket carries the majestic choruses prevalent here. This is where a-ha excels. Practically every song has a to die for anthemic chorus with melodies that just stick in your head and won't let go. Highlights include the melancholy album opener "The Bandstand", the pulsing "Sunny Mystery" and "Nothing Is Keeping You Here" which out-Keane's Keane, who certainly owe a lot to a-ha for their sound to begin with.
The album's true centerpiece is the stunning title track. Mixing in more live instrumentation, "Foot Of The Mountain" would be a radio smash here if radio still gave a shit about music. It's simply a perfect pop song with the best example of the anthemic choruses mentioned earlier that a-ha churn out.
If you're a fan of this type of music in the States, do yourself a favor and import "Foot Of The Mountain". You'll have a tough time finding a better synth-pop album released in 2009 and hopefully it'll help you rediscover a band that is still going strong just in time. a-ha is set to return to the U.S. in 2010 for their first proper shows since 1986 as part of their 25 year anniversary tour.