Here in Wisconsin, we have a sort of love/hate thing about winter. Back in college, I remember walking to work in bitter cold, with icicles forming in my facial hair and the inner workings of my Walkman freezing to a crawl so that my mix tape sounded like a 45 played at 33. Those mornings are too sad to contemplate further, but as miserable as I was, it also gave me an opportunity to feel all stoic and rugged and butch. For us Midwesterners, the quiet endurance of an extreme winter season is both a burden and a source of pride. Suffice to say that even as May heads into June, there have been frost advisories in America’s Dairyland. Wednesday night, I mowed my lawn in a winter coat. So when they start opening the garden centers at the Home Depots and Shopkos and Wal-Marts, we flock to them like mosquitoes to bug zappers, ravenous for the color green – ravenous for color at all.
Of course, it could be worse. We could be in Norway. (Actually, many of us are Norwegian.) And the Norwegian trio a-ha captured the poetically fleeting nature of a northern summer gloriously in the video for their 2000 reunion single “Summer Moved On” (which they debuted at the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize Concert). The band will always be best known for their 1985 hit “Take On Me” (and its video), but, even though it wasn’t a hit on these shores, “Summer Moved On” successfully re-established the band as an international pop force, and may, in fact, prove to be just as enduring and classic as their first hit. Both lyrically and musically the opposite of their signature hit, “Summer Moved On” is a languorous contemplation of a relationship’s final days which culminates with cascading strings and Morten Harket’s dramatic falsetto plea to “Stay… don’t just walk away” – how does that man hold his notes? – the song is accompanied by a video depicting a rocky ocean beach strewn with light-starved people waiting for the dawn of what proves to be an excruciatingly brief day.
Since their reunion, and in between the members’ various side projects – primary songwriter Pal Waaktaar and his wife Lauren Savoy record together under the name Savoy and in 2004 Magne “Mags” Furuholmen recorded a solo album with members of Coldplay – a-ha have released four very good albums (available in the U.S. only as imports) including the double-live set How Can I Sleep With Your Voice In My Head, with a new as-yet-untitled record scheduled to come out this fall. In the meantime, Morten Harket has revived his solo career with a brand new studio album called Letter From Egypt, his first full-length, English-language studio album since 1995’s lovely Wild Seed. The album’s advance single is a typically sweeping ballad called “Movies” (a cover of fellow Norskies the Locomotives’ “My Woman”) which was a top 10 hit in Norway earlier this year. Check out Morten (as hunky as ever) performing the song at last year’s Nobel Peace Prize Concert to an audience which included Al Gore. The album’s second single, the slightly more upbeat and far less engrossing “Darkside” was released in Europe in May.