In case you haven't heard: yes, a-ha has made music since 1985's "Take On Me" and much of it is fantastic. Now that we've discussed this particular pachyderm, let's get down to business and talk about a-ha's latest and greatest.
I once read an article somewhere on the internet (so you know it must be true) that said artists like Chris Martin of Coldplay and Bono of U2 cite a-ha as a major influence and wonder why they aren't more popular in the United States. I don't know if any of that is true, but we're going to proceed as if it is. The fact of the matter is that a-ha has a certain awesomeness that would seem to make them perfect for mainstream North American success and yet somehow it eludes them.
I dunno, I just can't picture 13-year-old American girls putting up posters and going ga-ga over three aging Norwegian popsters named Morten, Pål, and Magne. What I can picture is a certain section of the musically enlightened picking them up and dusting them off. There are certainly enough bespectacled bloggers (no, I don't wear glasses. I own them, I just don't wear them) in this country who are constantly on the lookout for bands nobody has ever heard of and bands that have been written off for whatever reason and are therefore criminally overlooked (a-ha meets the latter of the two requirements). So I guess it's somewhat surprising that a-ha isn't more moderately successful in an underground way in the United States than they are.
All that aside, a-ha's Analogue is yet another great post-1985 a-ha album. If we are to believe unsubstantiated internet reports (and really, why wouldn't we) you can really see why Chris Martin would love a-ha. They are a pop music juggernaut. They continually hit that perfect blend of androgynous vocals, churning guitars, weepy keyboards and breathtaking string arrangements. You really have to stand in awe of a band that can not only hit that mark consistently on an album, but do it consistently over a career of 20+ years.
I wouldn't recommend Analogue for light summertime listening. It was a perfect album for today because there's a nip in the air and I'm back working at a job I hate for a man I don't respect. Analogue feels like an acknowledgment of the darkness and dreariness of the world with a ray of hope tucked in for good measure. The title track of the album is a perfect case in point. The verse could have been written by Peter Murphy for how dark it sounds, but when the chorus kicked in it was all I could do to keep from clicking my heels. If you are the sort of person who can go from clinically depressed to jubilant and back again in the course of a single hour, Analogue just may be the soundtrack to your life.
Listen to snippets from the album here at lastfm.