You wouldn't know it for my tough rocker exterior (stop laughing!), but I have been a huge fan of Enya for many a year and I am chuffed beyond rational reason by the gift that arrived on my doorstep yonder morn. Noting the trusty WEA logo on the box, I fully expected to see yet another new Deftones, Incubus, Linkin Park or Disturbed CD that the mail man may as well just deliver to my trusty local used music retailer from now on and keep the lousy buck or two in trade for himself.
Yeah yeah, I know, a couple of those bands haven't put anything out since 2011 or so, it just seems that Warner/Reprise has me on their mechanics who like metal mailing list instead of, you know, one of their more esoteric mailing lists that might get me copies of Regina Spektor and Disciples, to name just a couple. Once I opened this new box, the first thought that came to mind was that I either got moved to the "old farts and/or the only people who will honestly review this" list or the new Enya album accidentally fell into my box.
That's right, Enya has a new record out, called Orinoco Joe And The Spiders From Ireland...OK, OK, I'm kidding, but that's not a bad title. This new one is actually called Dark Sky Island and it's her first new material since 2008's And Winter Came..., which doesn't count because it was largely a seasonal holiday album. I mean, there's no way you pull that album out in July and listen to it, So this is her first real album of new material since 2005's Amarantine.
That's ten long ass years without any new Enya music to hang your hat on, my friends, and while some might say ten years isn't long enough, this writer staunchly disagrees,
I know where you're coming from, though.
I was working in music retail at the time the song "Orinoco Flow" took off. On those days when my store manager and I would open the store, he would commandeer the store's CD player and play Enya's Watermark all the way through. I initially viewed this as cruel and unusual punishment, but one morning I came in with one banger of a hangover and the only thing that wouldn't have made me want to eat a gun was the ethereal and dreamlike musical stylings of one Enya Brennan, formerly of the band Clannad.
Right around the time I began to lose myself in the subtle yet seductive nuances of this alternate musical universe that Enya and producer Nicky Ryan created, we Record Palace employees went from dusting off the three or four copies that never moved to selling those things by the sleeve. Think of cassettes as fig newtons and you'll get my drift.
Weird thing is, my previous music retail gig had taken place a few years earlier, right around the time the new age movement exploded. By '89, it had definitely peaked, making Enya's success all the more extraordinary.
Like Ministry's huge leap from With Sympathy to Twitch, ultimately defining their own genre in the process, Enya bounded confidently between her first album and Watermark and essentially created her own cottage industry.
Even more impressive was the fact that her success was not at all dependent upon videos or touring. Sure she made videos, but whether MTV played them or not (they didn't) was of no consequence and the album breezily danced its way into the Top 10 in ten different countries. Here in the U.S., you'd have thought it spent fourteen weeks at #1 from the number of times and places you heard "Orinoco Flow", but it peaked at #25.
And that was before I went to see Steve Martin's "L.A. Story", which features several tracks from Watermark and used Enya's music to great effect throughout the film.
Shepherd Moons arrived just in time for the holiday shopping season of '91, setting a precedent - in my mind at least - of new Enya records just in time to capitalize on the holiday shopping season. It's not that she makes holiday music, either, but because a new Enya album helps solve that age-old question: what to get for the moms and aunts and grandmothers in your life.
I know this because I have relied upon new Enya records to help solve many of my holiday shopping dilemmas and have heard nothing but raves.
Sure, the same can be accomplished with a Michael Buble or Celine Dion album, but I refuse to be seen purchasing a Buble album and Celine's music has become unbearable by even grandmother standards.
So, how is this new Enya record, you ask?
Well, let me answer this by saying that on her last proper studio effort, you could tell that even Enya had gotten tired of sounding like Enya and, while there wasn't a whole lot she could do to change that, you could tell she was reaching for ways to change things up a bit just for her own enjoyment. As a result, Amarantine is not an album I find myself revisiting very often.
Dark Sky Island is Enya being Enya in much the same way Leave Home and Rocket To Russia was the Ramones being the Ramones. Sure, some of it was oddly familiar on first listen, but there was comfort in the band's unwavering dedication to that one thing they did so well.
And, sure, "The Humming..." is such an obvious re-write of "Caribbean Blue" that one almost wonders if Enya forgot she wrote that song already or, perhaps more accurately, thinks either we forgot or that her new fans haven't dug that far back yet. Either way, it's by no means a bad thing to hear her staying within her strengths.
In that sense, Dark Sky Island may not be as breathtakingly original as Watermark was at the time of its release more than 25 years ago, but it still makes you wonder how such evocative music can possibly be made by mere mortals. I mean, the idea of Enya just popping into some grungy recording studio that some cookie monster metal band was recording in just hours earlier, decked out in flip flops, ripped Levi's, and a Jethro Tull t-shirt is unthinkable.
No, when listening to Dark Sky Island, one gets the feeling that all of Enya's vocals were sung in a moment of quiet solitude whilst perched on the back of a magnificent alabaster unicorn as myrrh floated down like feathers from yonder treetops and, hey, isn't that what everybody wants from an Enya album?