Foot of the Mountain
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2009 release from the Norwegian trio, their ninth studio album in an illustrious 25 year career. Opening with the galloping charge of 'The Bandstand', the album quickly defines itself with the keyboard intro before Morten's instantly recognizable vocals announce their return. Melting into the Arcade Fire influenced 'Riding the Crest' which Paul describes as 'Electro Blues', the album flows into the melancholic 'What There Is' before thundering back into the stunning single and title track 'Foot of the Mountain'. with other tracks like 'Shadowside' and 'Sunny Mystery' incorporating the most driving and contagious beats and lyrics of A-HA's career, Foot of the Mountain is an album that cements A-HA's position in the world of pop. Recorded between Autumn 2008 and Spring 2009 in New York, Oslo, Hamburg, Stockholm and Bath, alongside producers Steve Osborne, Erik Ljunggren, Roland Spremberg and Mark Saunders. Universal.
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I didn't get to preview this album and bought it simply off reviews. Maybe that built my expectation a little too high.
Two things stuck out to me on this album. There is a lack of dynamics and a lack of the top notch hooks that I'm used to in A-ha's music. Usually I can look through the titles of songs and hear the song in my head instantly. This album just doesn't have that kind of glue.
That said, I kept it in my car CD player for weeks to see if I just wasn't giving it a chance. I did start to find some tracks that stuck out.
The Bandstand is probably my favorite song on the album. In fact, its why the CD stayed in my player as long as it did, because every time the CD started over, I found myself enjoying this song again. I find the funky bass synth in the background really adds to the enjoyment of the song...as well as the melodic twists and turns that A-ha is known for. This one will most likely stay in my "best of A-ha" collection.
From there the album seems to lose some edge. Riding The Crest is good, but not memorable. What It Is started to find the skip button for me. Foot of the Mountain has a hook, but for some reason, I just don't get excited about it. Real Meaning usually gets skipped.
Shadowside has more of that melodic lyric that I know and love. This song will probably stick with me a bit too, but I don't go out of my way to listen to it.
From there, the album seems like filler tracks.
Maybe I've been spoiled...Lifeline and Minor Earth Major Sky had some great memorable tracks and so did Morten's solo stuff (I haven't bought Analogue yet). They all seemed to make me think I would continue to love anything that A-ha put out. But this seemed like an obligation album, not one with a lot of heart and soul buried in it. This and Scoundrel Days will probably be the only two albums in my A-ha collection that don't get a lot of play. Everything else is brilliant.
Add this to your collection if you want some good music and love that A-ha sound...but I wouldn't put this as a "must have."
The DVD is the three theatrical videos from the album, plus two live videos from some 2009 concerts.
The CD is a solid final effort, no where near as good as Scoundrel Days, but more accessible than Memorial Beach - so, the boys go out on a "high" note with this release and package.
Sadly, at $36, it's about $16 more than you'd pay if it were released domestically, which, as all North American a-ha fans know, was always a sore point.
Nice quality booklet and liner notes as well.