Enya’s “Dark Sky Island,” her first CD of new work in seven years, will be released next week.
By Colleen Taylor
Enya is arguably the world’s most famous new-age artist. But she wouldn’t like any part of that sentence. The four-time Grammy award winner likes to lie low and makes a clear distinction between “fame” and “success,” privileging the latter. What’s more, she sees the name “new age”—a genre that she has almost single-handedly pioneered—as a “marketing” ploy. Luckily for Enya, however, her name speaks for itself. After a seven-year hiatus, she has returned to the recording studio and to the beginnings of her career. Her most recent single, “So I Could Find My Way,” is now available on Spotify, and her 2015 album, “Dark Sky Island,” will be available on Nov. 20.
After leaving the family band, Clannad, in the 1980s, Donegal’s Enya began a solo career managed by Nicky and Roma Ryan, who still orchestrate her production and lyricism today. The year 1988 was the turning point, with the release of her sophomore album, “Watermark,” and most importantly, her global hit “Orinoco Flow.” The album eventually sold 11 million copies, and “Orinoco Flow” might be one of the most recognizable hits by an Irish artist worldwide today. To give a taste of the range and endurance of Enya’s success, 12 long years later, she was still topping the most popular global charts with her song “Only Time,” off the album “A Day Without Rain.” She also famously sang the theme song for the “Lord of the Rings” films, called “May It Be.” Yet since the 2008 release of her Christmas album, “And Winter Came,” Enya hasn’t recorded any new material or felt much pull to tour or perform—until now.
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The singer recently explained her comeback to the BBC. After her break, she felt the pull back to the studio in 2012, when she began working on this latest album. While creating “Dark Sky Island,” Enya put in full working days at the studio, using the recording technology to layer her voice—vocal arrangement upon vocal arrangement—hundreds of times to create that chorus-like, breathy, mystical sound that is the singer’s hallmark. That sense of choral harmony gets visual representation in Enya’s latest music video, where she stands in the center of a stage clad in striking red and surrounded by an all-female ensemble of singers and orchestra.
Die-hard fans of the early Enya and especially her most famous song, “Orinoco Flow,” will be pleased with “Dark Sky Island.” She sees it as the companionate epilogue to “Orinoco Flow,” and explained the return to her original influences as a natural, cyclical progression. Emotional response from the listener represents the end-goal for Enya in everything she does, and it aligns with her music’s global nature. She aims for a wide-reaching response, exemplified by her Afro-Caribbean influences and Irish musical roots alike. Her latest travels around the globe inspired “Dark Sky Island,” yet the album consistently emits that faerie-like sense of Irish mythic mystery. Although it’s called “new age,” to me, everything in Enya’s voice and style sounds like history, even magic. Her latest material is no exception—in fact, it’s the epitome of that historical characterization. The newly released single “So I Could Find My Way” is almost indecipherable from something like “Only Time.” It’s the same old melodious Enya, but one cannot deny the comfort that comes from having her back again. Enya provides a restorative historical sensibility in our growingly ephemeral culture.
You can buy “Dark Sky Island” on Friday of next week and enjoy the preview of her single “So I Could Find My Way” on Spotify or watch the music video on Youtube. Visit enya.com for more information on the singer’s return.
Colleen Taylor writes the Music Notes column in the Irish Echo each week.