It’s remarkable how Enya exists outside of time.
From her self-titled 1986 debut through to her latest studio album, Dark Sky Island, the Irish vocalist’s first new work in almost a decade, the songs she sings — often in English, occasionally in Gaelic, Latin or Japanese and, as she did on 2005’s Amarantine, in the entirely fictional language of Loxian — feel a part of right now and a hundred years ago.
That timeless sensation is intensified by Enya, her quicksilver soprano layered to the moon, singing of elemental things — the ocean, the sky, the stars, the human heart — which proves both pleasurable and mildly problematic.
After all, if there is an illusion of constancy, is she basically making the same music over and over again?
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Enya’s critics would say yes, even in the face of some staggering statistics: 80 million units sold globally, to date, making the 54-year-old four-time Grammy winner one of the world’s most popular singers, albeit one who effectively exists only on record. (Enya has never toured extensively, limiting her promotional appearances mostly to music videos.)
And it’s that feeling of history repeating that makes it difficult to fall completely for the lush, 11-track Island.
Again teamed with husband-wife duo Nicky and Roma Ryan, Enya unfurls one lavish, exquisitely rendered sonic tapestry after another: the stately, poignant So I Could Find My Way; the surging lead single Echoes in Rain; the exotic waltz Sancta Maria; and the luminous finale, Diamonds in the Water.
While Dark Sky Island is, for every one of its 44 minutes, unquestionably alluring, it’s tough to shake the ghosts of successes past.
Echoes in Rain strongly recalls her breakout hit. Orinoco Flow, spliced with her On My Way Home, nearly to the point of distraction. Astra et Luna, while gorgeous, feels like an outtake from her Shepherd Moons album.
So on and so forth — Enya can summon vocal beauty like no other pop vocalist (as she explained to Entertainment Weekly recently, she doesn’t see herself as a New Age artist: “That’s more electronic recorded music, and we’re more real-time.”) but, as most other pop acts have discovered at some point during their careers, it becomes especially challenging to give listeners something fresh, particularly as the weight of time’s passing becomes more pronounced.
Dark Sky Island
☆ ☆ ☆