a-ha – True North (Album Review)

a-ha – True North (Album Review)

By this time, a-ha – Norway’s finest New Wave pioneer – no longer needs a long-winded introduction. Formed in 1982, in Oslo, Norway, the trio might be known for big ’80s hits such as “Take On Me” and “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.,” but are far more extensive and prolific. Continuing to create at a high level, the band has an impressive 11-album studio discography to their name; from the masterpiece debut, 1985’s Hunting High and Low, to the recently unleashed True North.

Released on Friday, October 21, 2022, via Sony Music, True North is the long-awaited follow up to their 2015 album Cast in Steel. Their second album since reuniting following their farewell tour of 2011, True North is accompanied by a documentary film of the same title featuring a-ha recording the album during November of 2021 in Bodø, Norway. Giving more insight into the work behind the songs, it also gives you a more personal look into a-ha, the musicians themselves, and their work together through the years. Furthermore, the album itself is a polished gem thematically focusing on the natural world, its beauty, and preservation.

Complete with a dozen tracks, it all starts with the all-too-familiar romantic ballad, and lead single, “I’m In.” From here the album slides up with the impassioned sheen of “Hunter in the Hills.” Then after a couple more Sophisti-pop songs, “As If” and “Between the Halo and the Horn,” a-ha then launches into the album’s title-track.

All very engrossing, the highlight of True North has to be “Forest for the Trees” which showcases the band’s flair for orchestral arrangement, with the accompaniment of Norwegian Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra. That in mind, another heartrending, soulful track follows next with “Bluest of the Blue.” Then, after three more ear-catchers – “Make Me Understand,” “You Have What It Takes,” and “Summer Rain” – a-ha then wrap up their latest effort with the delightful “Oh My Word.”

The enduring trio of Pål Waaktaar-Savoy (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, Magne Furuholmen (keyboards, piano, programming, guitar, backing vocals), and Morten Harket (vocals) have long proven that they are not only poster boys, but more so prolific songwriters. Still going strong after some gaps in-between as a collective band, True North is yet another wreath of laurels on their shoulders. The saccharine sensibilities of its songs will make you reach the end without even knowing it. Time to press repeat and play again. And that is why Cryptic Rock gives True North 4 out of 5 stars.

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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