Irish singer-songwriter, Enya, is all alone. In a music industry filled with electronic, pop, and alternative sounds, each battling for their right to be heard by an audience intent on new, it’s a breath of fresh air when recording artists who sound like absolutely nothing else are still making music. It’s amazing how timeless Enya’s sound is: Above a whimsical mix of Celtic and New Age-revival, her ethereal vocals float through the songs like clouds through the skies.
Enya’s new album, Dark Sky Island, is her first album in almost seven years. After the trainwreck that was And Winter Came (2008)—a collection of unconnected songs that sounded only vaguely like Christmas—Dark Sky Island is a return to form for Enya. The album is a seemingly intentional attempt at recreating her previous sound on albums such as A Day Without Rain (2000), or the brilliantly mesmerizing Paint the Sky With Stars (1997). The inclusion of elements such as the piano-driven chorus during “Echoes in Rain” or the staggered drums on “The Loxian Gate” feel almost directly taken from her 1997 song, “On My Way Home.” But by doing so, Enya has placed Dark Sky Island in exact alignment with her earlier albums. Against such stiff competition, this latest album simply pales in comparison.
As a standalone project, this album is about as ‘Enya’ as an Enya album can be. As always, the natural world and its general phenomena are her lyrical inspiration. Drawing from the water—oceans, to be exact—the sky, and the moon, Dark Sky Island drifts through its 11 songs effortlessly; however, while Enya has always provided the airiest of melodies, the perceived ease of the album’s tracks could be taken as a lack of originality as Enya runs out of ideas. After all, there’s only so much one can sing about when it comes to the sea, and on Dark Sky Island it seems that she’s hit the ocean floor.
Nonetheless, the songs, while a tad restrained, are meticulously crafted—as are her vocals—and the general vibe of the album is, as always, other-wordly. But the nagging issue with the Dark Sky Island as a whole is its tendency to float along the easy road instead of Enya pushing herself in any new musical or lyrical direction. And while already regrettably using such a common phrase for an album this out-of-touch with modernity, it is a classic case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
She’s aware of that, though: With aptly-titled songs such as “I Could Never Say Goodbye” and “The Humming…,” Dark Sky Island is Enya returning to claim her territory in the music industry. The problem, though, is that with no one there to compete with, she’s allowed to go along uncontested—overshadowed only by her sole competitor: Herself.
“The Humming…,” “Even In the Shadows,” & “Echoes in Rain”
“Even when I whisper / The winds will come / To steal the words I say.”
An uninspired Enya; defined by self-imposed limitations of her previous self.