by Sophia Weiss
Nearly six years after the release of her last record, Enya reaffirmed her status as the soulful, ambient icon Friday, with the release of Dark Sky Island. Layered with synthesized moodiness and her trademark skilled, almost operatic vocals, this album appears to follow suit with most of her successful records to date, including 2000’s A Day Without Rain and 1995 The Memory of the Trees. In describing this new release, Enya has said that though the record is unthemed (unlike 2008’s Christmas-ey And Winter Came) it has a strong underlying theme of “journeys,” be they through distance, time or life. This theme is clearly present on opening track “The Humming…” a song which extremely low piano octaves to mimic a sort of humming sound, while Enya effortlessly sings about change within her universe.
There is no question that Enya’s music is for an eclectic, highly specific taste. Born into a music-oriented family in northern Ireland, the singer first rose to fame in the late ‘80s with the release of Watermark. She would eventually peak in popularity following the release of A Day Without Rain twelve years later, climbing the Billboard charts with sweeping, transcendent tracks fit for something akin to a symphonic score. Enya’s music is known for being different. She likes to play with the general confines of rhythm and melody, often incorporating new instruments alongside different languages, like Loxian and Gaelic. Her intricate methods prove successful in this new record, specifically on tracks like “Even in the Shadows” and “The Loxian Gate,” song which draw directly from her folk-roots. There is a great sense of length with Enya. If not necessarily in the timing of her songs, but absolutely in her lyrics and musical solos. She is especially strong with the love-ballads. “I Could Never Say Goodbye” is a beautiful piece of music, stretching forward while maintaining a symmetric sense of lightness, such is a similar case on single, “Echoes in the Rain,” a song which has quickly become among her most successful to date.
There are many things Enya does with skill (harmony and synchronization to name a few) and yet there seems to be something missing. Amidst all of the grandiose vocal patterns and clever double bass movements, there is a missing sense of accessibility in her music. In the era of Bjork, Enya was an exciting new artist in a transcending genre of unique-female artists, but now, her music echoes something you might hear in a waiting room, or more likely, the background of a movie.
In a time where R&B and pop continue to remain at the top of the charts, there doesn’t seem to be much of a place for Enya to resume her former glory. Dark Sky Island is a masterpiece of precision and classical performance, the question is whether or not there will be enough listeners to notice.
Sophia Weiss is a Contributing Writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org