I never knew as a bright-eyed teenager that East of the Sun West of the Moon was such a divisive album for a-ha fans. Maybe the reason I had no idea was that I lived in a small town in northern Arizona and all my friends owned and loved the album. In my small universe East of the Sun West of the Moon was multi-platinum and was considered one of the top 10 albums of all time. Of course this didn't hold true for real life, but for all I knew at the time it was true.
East of the Sun West of the Moon represents a-ha driving the last nail into the coffin of their former synthpop sound, which is why so many people who loved Hunting High and Low and Scoundrel Days couldn't stand this album. If you have no preconceived notions of how an a-ha album is supposed to sound, you might find yourself loving this album.
Like U2's Joshua Tree, East of the Sun West of the Moon presents 3 songs that are all-time hits that can stand on their own, no help needed. The rest of the album is a varied and interesting affair that isn't without its own charm (much like the rest of Joshua Tree). The three songs you need to familiarize yourself with on this album are "Waiting For Her" "Slender Frame" and "Crying in the Rain." These songs are hauntingly beautiful and perfectly crafted. "Crying in the Rain" is covered so perfectly it'll make you forget the Everly Brothers ever sang it. "Waiting For Her" and "Slender Frame" are delectable nuggets of songwriting that should be irresistable to anyone with an ear for pop music.
Until very recently, I was unable to appreciate the rest of this album on any level. Songs like "Sycamore Leaves" and "Cold River" were nauseating to me. I honestly couldn't find redeeming value in them at all (which, of course, is how some a-ha fans view this entire album). I think the first time I heard the entire album I was expecting 11 straight hits. I had unrealistic expectations and it killed my ability to enjoy the album for what it was: a decent album with 3 fantastic songs and filler that isn't half bad. Now that I'm a little older and a little (very little) wiser, I can lay all my preconceived notions by the wayside and just listen to the music.
Listen to samples of this album by following this link to lasfm