Posts Tagged ‘a-ha’

True North enters at #3 in Norway, #4 in Germany and #12 in the UK

Doing well in the charts

True North has entered the official Norwegian album chart at #3. This is the same first-week position as Cast In Steel seven years ago.

On the official German album chart True North enters at #4, which is also the same as Cast In Steel.

In the UK the album enters the official chart at #12 with 5109 copies sold in the first week, making it a-ha’s twelfth top 20 album in the UK (including compilations and live albums).

Other album chart entries so far include #5 in Switzerland, #8 in Austria, #8 in Belgium (Flanders), #11 in the Netherlands, #14 in Poland, #15 in Belgium (Wallonia), #35 in Portugal, #37 in Japan, #38 in France, #38 in Ireland, #46 in Spain and #72 in Italy. (Updated 03.11.22)

In addition, the “I’m In” single climbs to #7 on the Norwegian radio airplay chart in its eighth week, the highest position so far.

Magazine cover

On the promotional front, there have been a number of additional interviews over the last week.

Paul has spoken to the American music magazine The Big Takeover.

Morten was interviewed by BBC Radio Cornwall, the Spanish newspapers El Pais and ABC, the German Rolling Stone magazine and the Swedish news agency TT.

And Magne has been interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester (at 2:15:30 and 2:33:10) and Westsound FM in Scotland.

a-ha are also on the cover of the latest issue (#78) of Classic Pop magazine, which promises “the definitive interview with a-ha’s Morten, Magne and Paul who reveal all about their complex band dynamic and new album, True North”.

This is the third time they are on the cover of this UK magazine, following the June/July 2015 issue and the November 2017 issue.

For info on how to buy a copy, visit the Classic Pop website.

Excellent reviews for True North

.

a-ha’s 11th studio album True North is released today, available on CD, vinyl, digitally and as a limited deluxe edition. Here is the official link to order/stream the album.

The True North film is also released digitally today, in HD and 4K resolution for rental and purchase. Or you can find it included on a USB-card inside the deluxe edition of the album.

And a new music video for “As If” has been posted on YouTube, taken from the True North film.

Press reviews so far have been overwhelmingly positive. Here is a selection of quotes:

Dagsavisen (Norway) – 5/6:
“40 years into their career a-ha are back with one of their finest albums. (…) Despite their long history, this is a band that stands out as highly relevant in 2022.”

Dagbladet (Norway) – 5/6:
“True North is an album that cements the band as unique songwriters and at the same time displays new sounds and solutions. Few bands with a 40-year career are able to do the same.”

NRK (Norway) – 5/6:
“Furuholmen and Waaktaar-Savoy have contributed six songs each. In a miraculous way they’ve managed to create a fully cohesive album that’s also full of variety. They master both nostalgia and the contemporary.”

Hymn (Sweden) – 7/10:
“If you are not touched by the band’s beautiful melancholy or by the divine singing, you have no heart. (…) I feel they have created an excellent album.”

Laut (Germany) – 5/5:
“(…) their best album since 1993. (…) An album split between forward-looking experimentation and nostalgia. A masterpiece that combines all their strengths.”

Rolling Stone (Germany) – 4/5:
“A late masterpiece from the Norwegian trio. (…) Adult pop has rarely been better defined, thanks in part to a distinctive but understated singer like Morten Harket.”

Albumism (USA) – 4,5/5:
“Thumbing their nose at preconceived notions around their identity has allowed Waaktaar-Savoy, Furuholmen and Harket to build a discography bursting with accomplished recordings. a-ha continue on in this tradition with True North, another gem in their pop crown – long may they reign.”

AllMusic – 3,5/5:
“It’s a grown-up pop record chock-full of beautifully written songs replete with musical reinvention, sonic evolution, and abundant creativity.”

New interviews include Morten being a guest on BBC Radio Devon and BBC Radio Bristol (at 1:20:30), Magne interviewed by Swedish music magazine Zero and appearing on BBC Radio WM and all three interviewed in the Daily Express.

Paul on True North: “I’m pleased with this album”

Photo by Jakob

UK newspaper The Sun had an interview with all three members of a-ha this weekend, ahead of the release of True North on 21 October. The album gets a 4/5 rating.

Even if Magne was the one who initiated the process of True North, Paul says he was fully onboard with the idea of recording a new album:

“I was all for it as it adds to the pool of songs that we have under our belts. How many bands have been making new music for the time we have?”

“I’m always writing but I have to pick from the stuff I’m working on which will fit Morten’s voice. And working with the Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra changed everything. It was a different approach and an intense working period of three weeks.”

“I’m pleased with this album as I’ve toyed with a 1970s, Brazilian sound I wouldn’t normally. I’m pleased with the expanded chords and rhythms on songs like Bumblebee and Hunter In The Hills”, Paul tells the newspaper.

Another article about True North and a-ha’s legacy has appeared in The New European, written by Greg Lansdowne.

Photo by Jakob

“I think, for me, some of the best songs I’ve ever written are on this album. There’s always good material from Paul, so even though they arenʼt necessarily coming from the same place in concept they kind of find their own way”, Magne says in the article.

“[True North] became, in the end, not what I expected, not what Paul expected, certainly not what Morten expected and probably not what Stian expected. But the conglomerate of it all is the end product… and I for one feel it was really worth doing it – I don’t regret it for a second and maybe that’s the future. That’s how we get things done.”

Morten says that recording the album live at Svømmehallen Scene in Bodø – a former public swimming pool now converted into a concert hall – was a challenge for him as a vocalist:

“It was difficult to record it that way, because we went for Bodø for its cinematic possibilities, but sonically it was a challenge. I didn’t listen to anything after we did it but I picked it up again recently and it sounded better than I expected.”

Photo by Jakob

Additionally, there’s an 8-page article about True North in the latest issue of UK magazine Retro Pop, also written by Greg Lansdowne – plus a 5/5 review of the new album:

“(…) on True North they sound more united than ever, with the trio holding their own against the stunning orchestration that conjures a soundscape and a world in which the album exists. (…) the result is a standout album in their catalogue and one that’s sure to be remembered as a masterpiece of their golden years.”

In the article, Magne says “Bluest of Blue” was probably the starting point of the project and that he considers “True North” to be a sister song to “Stay On These Roads”.

It also mentions that Morten is currently working on a new solo album:

“I am writing with Peter Kvint, from Sweden, and the musical aspect is either together with him or it’s just me. (…) I’m sitting on various types of demos, looking at which way to approach them, so I can’t say as of now [when it will come out].” Morten says.

In a Q&A session in connection with a True North film screening in London last month, Magne said he originally wanted True North to consist of four songs from each band member, but Morten declined as he was busy with his solo album.

Meanwhile in LA, Paul has also been busy working on new songs. He is rumored to be working on both a Waaktaar solo album and a new Savoy album. In the last couple of months he’s posted several video clips from the studio on Instagram:
Clip 1   Clip 2   Clip 3   Clip 4

According to the Retro Pop article a-ha will be “taking a backseat for the time being”, which will hopefully provide an opportunity for solo projects to be released.

On the visual art front, Magne has been busy with several solo exhibitions lately; “aizuri-e” at Hadeland Glassverk, “esper lucat” at Kunstverket Galleri and an exhibition at Eker Gård. Plus, he’s completed his sculpture “Askekallen” in Heggedal, a commissioned piece that has been installed in the middle of a roundabout.

To celebrate the release of True North there will be a screening of the film at Svømmehallen Scene in Bodø on 21 October, followed by a Q&A where Magne Furuholmen, director Stian Andersen and a-ha manager Harald Wiik will take part. Tickets for the event are free.

True North film reactions

The mountains of Northern Norway

Stian Andersen’s film a-ha: True North premiered on nearly 500 cinemas in 26 countries on Wednesday 15 September, including Norway, Germany, UK, Ireland, Brazil, USA, Canada and Australia. Followed by Israel (Sep 19), Japan (Sep 23) and France (Sep 24).

Combining the live performance at Svømmehallen in Bodø with nature footage, actors playing out scenes and spoken statements by the band members, a-ha: True North includes ten of the songs that will be on the upcoming album, only leaving out the last two tracks “Summer Rain” and “Oh My Word”.

“There’s no doubt that a-ha is a demanding band to work with, and they choose their creative teams on the highest international level. Therefore it’s obviously great to be asked to direct such a large film project. I do have the advantage of having worked with the band for many years and already know Morten, Magne and Paul well. I have to give props to a-ha for giving me more or less full creative freedom to follow my vision and make the film I believed in. (…) The most rewarding has been the opportunity to show the movie in cinemas across the world and see the fantastic feedback that we’ve been getting”, director Stian Andersen tells Kreativt Forum.

UK’s The Times (paywall) gives the film 4/5:
“The director, Stian Andersen, filmed the process, interviewed the band and mixed in some dreamy location footage. The results are sweetly engaging, and even occasionally mesmerising.”

NRK Filmpolitiet gives it 4/6:
“True North doesn’t come across like a straight-up concert film, which is not the inention either, but rather like a 72-minute music video for the new album, their first since Cast In Steel from 2015. The sound mix is so comfortable, spotless and precisely balanced that the songs sound like studio recordings, making it obvious that the performance you see isn’t necessarily the same as you hear.

Anyone who’s seen Thomas Robsahm’s excellent documentary a-ha: The Movie will know at least one of the band members was sceptical of making a new studio album due to the band’s challenging inner dynamics. Therefore True North may be a perfect compromise, namely a live recording further processed into something you may call a studio product.

Songs like “Hunter in the Hills”, “Forest for the Trees”, “Bluest of Blue” and “You Have What it Takes” prove that Morten, Paul and Magne still retain the fantastic pop sensibilities that have defined their career through four decades.”

While it gets 3/6 from Aftenposten (paywall):
“The music that fills the album (and the movie, with the exception of two songs) sounds after one screening like familiar, mid-tempo a-ha, but is definitely a bit more organic than on the pop-clinical and fairly cold “Cast In Steel”. (…) But cinematically the music unfortunately gets a bit lost amid all the dark, melancholic and at times dramatic images that director Stian Andersen wraps around it.”

Dagens Næringsliv (paywall):
“It’s beautiful and at times gripping, but after a large number of drone shots of heavy waves you start to get a feeling of having seen an Equinor-sponsored film about sustainability. (…) An element of being a commercial for Bodø as the European Capital of Culture in 2024 is also in my mind when leaving the cinema. It’s pretty corporate.”

Other reviews have appeared in Morgenbladet (paywall) and Gigwise.

40 years of a-ha

New publicity shot by Stian Andersen

Today marks exactly 40 years since the formation of a-ha, on 14 September 1982. That was the day when Paul and Magne visited Morten’s home in Asker to wish him a happy 23rd birthday and welcome him as the new vocalist in their band.

Morten has described that moment in his 2016 memoir My Take On Me:

“On 14 September 1982 I was at home with my parents, when there was a knock at the door. It was not the first visit of the day, as it was my birthday. However, this particular visit would prove to be significant. I opened the door, and in front of me stood Paul and Magne with a potted plant, a Yucca palm. More than thirty years later, that palm is still at my parent’s house where it continues to grow and thrive. For me it’s still a symbol that reminds me of that day, which was not just my birthday, but also marked my decision to become a part of the band.”

And so began their journey; three very different individuals joined together by shared ambitions, determination and talent.

Tomorrow the story of a-ha continues, when the True North film premieres on cinemas in 29 countries around the world. Tickets are still available at ahatruenorth.com.

Tour finale at the Hollywood Bowl

a-ha at the Hollywood Bowl, 31 July 2022
(Screenshot from YouTube video by binarybruin)

The Hunting High and Low tour came to an end on Sunday, 31 July, as a-ha played a very special outdoor show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

This was concert number 72 of the tour, which originally started in October 2019 and ended up becoming their longest tour ever, due to the extended break caused by the pandemic.

“It is our grand finale and who knows if there will be another”, Magne said in an interview with The Orange County Register ahead of the LA show. “We’ve come so far down the road that there could be some sort of swan song and what better way to finish it off, if that’s what happens, than at the Hollywood Bowl with an orchestra? That almost sounds like it’s scripted.”

They were joined on stage by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins, who played along on 10 of the 14 songs.

“So, this is definitely one for the bucket list. I think ever since we were kids and read about – and heard – The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl this has been one of those moments you’ve been dreaming of. So thanks for making that possible”, Magne told the audience before he introduced the two new songs from True North.

The seven concerts in Brazil from 13-25 July included 19 songs and the full Hunting High and Low album, as did the concert in Napa on 29 July. But at the Hollywood Bowl it was back to a 14-song set.

Hollywood Bowl setlist
(with links to YouTube videos)

1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing of Things
3. Crying in the Rain
4. The Blood That Moves the Body
5. Train of Thought
6. Cry Wolf
7. Forest For the Trees
8. You Have What It Takes
9. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
10. Hunting High and Low
11. The Sun Always Shines on TV
12. I’ve Been Losing You
13. The Living Daylights
14. Take On Me

Someone has also uploaded the entire concert as one video here.

The band will now probably take some much-deserved time off, before the release of the True North film and album.

The ticket sale for 15 September screenings of the 72-minute True North film, directed by Stian Andersen, will begin on 4 August through ahatruenorth.com. “I think the film is going to be on like 450 cinemas around the world – for one day. So don’t sleep or you’ll miss it”, Magne told the concert audience in Scarborough last month.

a-ha at Stavernfestivalen

At Stavernfestivalen

a-ha played their last European concert of this tour at Stavernfestivalen near Larvik in Norway yesterday.

Unlike the other Norwegian festivals last month, this time they played the full 18-song set (same as in Scarborough and Cardiff a few days ago). And Anneli Drecker made a return on backing vocals.

YouTube videos:
The Swing Of Things     Cry Wolf

Stavernfestivalen is one of Norway’s largest festivals and there was a predominantly young audience of 15-20,000 people.

“I can see there’s a lot of young people in the audience tonight. The next song is dedicated to you, who are going to look after the planet after we have finished f***ing it up”, Magne said as he introduced “You Have What It Takes”.

 
Photo gallery (by Jakob):

 
The tour will continue with seven dates in Brazil, starting in Recife on Wednesday 13 July, before two concerts in California rounds it all off – Napa on 29 July and the big finale at The Hollywood Bowl in LA on 31 July.

Stavernfestivalen setlist:
1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing Of Things
3. Crying In The Rain
4. The Blood That Moves The Body
5. Train of Thought
6. Foot Of The Mountain
7. We’re Looking For The Whales
8. Cry Wolf
9. Forest For The Trees
10. You Have What It Takes
11. Analogue
12. I Dream Myself Alive
13. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
14. Hunting High and Low
15. The Living Daylights
– – – – – – – – – – – –
16. The Sun Always Shines on TV
17. I’ve Been Losing You
18. Take On Me

“I’m In” single release and album tracklist

“I’m In”, the first single from the upcoming a-ha album True North, was released today for download and streaming.

Here is the official music video, directed by Stian Andersen:

The new album can now be pre-ordered from the official True North web store, as CD, 2LP and an exclusive box set, along with new T-shirts. Release date 21 October.

Album tracklist:

1. I’m In (Furuholmen)
2. Hunter In The Hills (Waaktaar-Savoy)
3. As If (Waaktaar-Savoy)
4. Between The Halo And The Horn (Furuholmen)
5. True North (Furuholmen)
6. Bumblebee (Waaktaar-Savoy)
7. Forest For The Trees (Waaktaar-Savoy)
8. Bluest Of Blue (Furuholmen)
9. Make Me Understand (Waaktaar-Savoy)
10. You Have What It Takes (Furuholmen)
11. Summer Rain (Furuholmen)
12. Oh My Word (Waaktaar-Savoy)

a-ha announce new True North album details and first single “I’m In”

 

Today a-ha has announced the release date of their new album and film True North: 21 October 2022.

The first single is called “I’m In” and will be released this Friday, 8 July, along with a music video. It can be pre-saved using this link.

“I’m In” was originally shared by Magne on Instagram last year as a solo demo and he explains what the song is about in a new press release posted on a-ha.com:

“Magne, who wrote the moving “I’m In”, says it is “a song about total commitment and a show of support for someone who is troubled. Real commitment is a leap of faith. Everyone knows how difficult it can be to offer commitment and support unconditionally, but this is what it takes to make anything worthwhile happen – love, friendship, change, self-improvement, careers, a better world. Easier said than done of course but it begins with an attitude, then uttering the words. After this it is all hard work to realize whatever potential your commitment has in the world. Without this attitude everything just gets bogged down with conflicting thoughts, doubts and fear. Just say it: ‘I’m in’.”

Stian Andersen has directed the accompanying True North film, which will get a cinema release in late summer and a home video release on 21 October:

“In the True North film, a-ha perform and record with the orchestra. Also caught on camera in the landscape around Bodø, Magne, Morten and Paul discuss True North. In recurring vignettes, actors portray life in the north. The multidimensional film describes a narrative arc embodying the spirit of the new songs, showing how all of us are connected to the environment. Long-time a-ha collaborator Stian Andersen is the director. “True North is a letter from a-ha, from the Arctic Circle, a poem from the far north of Norway with new music,” says Magne.”

Release details from the press release:

    • “I’m In” is issued as an audio single on 8 July 2022. The music video, drawn from the True North film, is also released on 8 July 2022.
    • The True North film is released to cinemas in selected territories world-wide by Trafalgar Releasing in late summer 2022.
    • The True North album is issued on 21 October 2022. Editions include: jewel-case CD; heavy black vinyl (2 x recycled 12’’ vinyl); limited deluxe edition (with hard-cover book including 40 pages, 2 x LPs with glued sleeves, CD in a cardboard sleeve and an USB card); digital audio long-play for download and streaming. Pre-order is available from 8 July 2022 at ahatruenorth.com, where you can sign up for further information.
    • The True North film will be available for rental and purchase from 21 October 2022.

Barcelona, Nice and Montreux

Montreux, July 1st
(Screenshot from live stream)

a-ha have played three headline shows so far this week; outdoors in Barcelona and Nice and indoors at the Montreux Jazz Festival. The 18-song setlist was the same in all three cities.

The concert in Montreux was streamed live online (albeit with a 1-hour delay) through Qello Concerts. If you missed it, someone has also uploaded the show on YouTube.

While in Montreux, Magne took time to get interviewed by several Swiss news outlets. Two video interviews have been posted online; Le Matin and Blue News.

Magne also posted a picture from a visit to Shania Twain and her family, who live in Switzerland, while Paul posted some pictures of the view in Montreux. Morten posted a picture and video clip from Barcelona.

An unexpected moment occured at the concert in Barcelona on Monday, when Karl Oluf seemed to experience problems with his bass drum at the beginning of “Cry Wolf”. “We just need to change a drum. We have a drummer with a very strong foot”, Magne explained to the audience. This lead to a very extended intro and what Magne described as “the longest version of ‘Cry Wolf’ in history”. It can be seen in this video.

A video of the complete Barceona concert has been uploaded here.

 
Photo gallery from Barcelona (by Carlos Maciá)

 
Morten’s voice problems are still noticeable at times, and particularly in Montreux where he was also struggling with hearing himself in the venue. But he does his best, as he told the audience in Nice:
“My voice is still a little dodgy, but I do the best I can with it. So sing along if you feel like it, and always when I ask you to.”

Some videos from Nice on Wednesday:
You Have What It Takes   Various songs

Anneli Drecker did not appear at any of these three concerts, but she is currently working on a new Bel Canto album and may have other commitments.

Next up is two outdoor shows in the UK; Scarborough tonight and Cardiff on Tuesday, before returning to Norway to play at Stavernfestivalen next Friday.

On Instagram Paul revealed it was a challenging journey to get from Switzerland to the UK in time:
“Long day. Our flights got cancelled so we had to improvise… took us 18 hours to get here via [bus, plane, train and car]”.

 
Setlist in Barcelona, Nice and Montreux

1. Sycamore Leaves
2. The Swing Of Things
3. Crying In The Rain
4. The Blood That Moves The Body
5. Train of Thought
6. Foot Of The Mountain
7. We’re Looking For The Whales
8. Cry Wolf
9. Forest For The Trees
10. You Have What It Takes
11. Analogue
12. I Dream Myself Alive
13. Here I Stand and Face the Rain
14. Hunting High and Low
15. The Living Daylights
– – – – – – – – – – – –
16. The Sun Always Shines on TV
17. I’ve Been Losing You
18. Take On Me

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