Here's something you don't hear often: ABBA has a couple of new songs out. And the early word is they're pretty good. The music happened when the band, which broke up in 1982, started working on a virtual concert that will start its run in May in East London, the BBC reports. The quartet paused to go into the recording studio for a brief session. "At first it was just two songs," Benny Andersson said Thursday, "and then we said, 'Well, maybe we should do a few others.'" The two tracks became 10 and an album, Voyage, that will be released on Nov. 5. It's ABBA's first studio album in 40 years. "I think it's pretty good," Andersson said. "We've done as good as we could at our age."
One of the new songs, "I Still Have Faith In You," is a piano ballad. "When Benny played the melody, I just knew it had to be about us," said Bjorn Ulvaeus. The other is "Don't Shut Me Down," which Rolling Stone calls a "disco gem" and features the familiar harmonies of Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Andersson admitted he had one fear about his bandmates. "Five minutes before they came into the studio, I was thinking, 'I should have asked if they can still sing,'" he said. "But they could and they can and you will hear it when you listen to the records." There's also a Christmas song thrown in, Andersson said. A BBC reviewer, Mark Savage, confirms that the band hasn't "messed it up."
The visual effects company created by George Lucas, Industrial Light & Magic, designed the avatars for the virtual concert. A 10-piece band will accompany the digital ABBA on 22 songs in a theater built for the shows in Olympic park, per CNN. A team of more than 850 people used motion capture technology to produce the show, also called Voyage. "Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Bjorn got onstage in front of 160 cameras and almost as many VFX geniuses, and they performed every song in this show" over five weeks, said producer Ludvig Andersson. "So when you see this show, it is not four people pretending to ABBA, it is actually them." Tickets go on sale Tuesday.
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Faltskog told the BBC in 2013 that she wasn't interested in reviving ABBA. "It was such a long time ago, and we are getting older, and we have our different lives," she said. But she changed her tune once the band went to work. "Benny's recording studio is such a friendly and safe environment, and before I knew it I was really enjoying myself!" Faltskog said in a statement. In discussing "I Still Have Faith In You," Ulvaeus called the band's position now inconceivable. "No imagination could dream up that, to release an album after 40 years and still be the best of friends, and still be enjoying each other's company, and have a total loyalty," he said. "Who has experienced that? Nobody." (More ABBA stories.)