Enya 10th Icon of Echoes: Five of Her Best Albums

Enya-The 10th Icon of Echoes: 5 Best Albums

The voice of Enya has become ubiquitous on television commercials and film soundtracks.  Whether heard in American Express ads or the movie, “The Age of Innocence,” her ethereal choirs and Celtic cadences seem suited to almost any mood.  And when directors can’t get Enya, they just imitate her, like the score to Titanic. Enya floats in waves of reverberation and synthesizer pads, her multi-tracked voice cascading around her like silken eddies.

I have a certain ambivalence toward Enya. There are times when she goes to a higher plane, an ecstatic, floating cloud of sound that exists between worlds ancient, future and imagined.  Her music is meticulously crafted, her voice a heaven-sent instrument. Then there are times, more with each album, until Dark Sky Island,  where she can be trite, even clunky with dated sounds and over-produced, clotty arrangements.  Her voice, that beautiful instrument that shares a genetic lineage with her sister, Moya Brennan, is lost in turgid overdubs and indiscriminate oceans of reverb.  And her pop hits, which she hasn’t had in the US since 2000, became increasingly Disneyesque, beginning with the best one, “Orinoco Flow,” and then declining through thru “Caribbean Blue,” “Anywhere Is” and the puerile confection of “Only If….”

Which might make you think I don’t love Enya, but I do because when she hits it, as she did most recently on the Dark Sky Island, she creates a sound, a mood and a spirit unlike any other.

Enya has only released 8 proper albums in 34 years, so it’s not too difficult picking out the 5 best.

THE FIVE BEST ENYA ALBUMS

1 Watermark
If you have only one Enya album, this should be it. Released in 1988. her second recording, Watermark, is packed with more gorgeous songs and original ideas than all her other CDs combined.  It has the hit, “Orinoco Flow,” the best of her “pop” songs, but it also contains the Latin-sung tribal thunder of “Cursum Perficio,” the cinematic expanse of “Storms in Africa” and “The Longships”, and beautiful aires like “Evening Falls.”  Every Enya album after this followed the same formula.

2 Shepherd Moons
The follow-Up to Watermark, Enya’s third album continued and expanded on those themes with the gothic chants of “Afer Ventus” and “Angeles”, more tribal stomps with “Ebudae” and the heartbreaking “Evacuee” one of the few Enya songs with real world concerns, in this case the London Blitz of WWII.  “Caribbean Blue” was the pop hit, but…..

3 Dark Sky Island
Enya’s 8th proper album, Dark Sky Island, was something of a return to form and a shedding of some treacle.  The mood itself is darker, the voice more intimate.   “The Humming” is the opening of her new album, Dark Sky Island, and it’s meant to evoke the spin of the universe. Only Enya can turn a hum into a celestial chant. Whether singing in English, Gaelic or Loxian, Enya doesn’t need words to express the infinite. Just her voice, layered into choirs, suggests sanctity. But she does tap her Catholic roots. The “Alleluia” chorus on “Echoes in Rain” and a chant song called “Sancta Maria” draws upon catholic iconography The slow air of “So I Could Find My Way” sounds like a plea to God. But Enya’s spirituality is less religious and more cosmic, and the title track speaks to that. “Dark Sky Island” is the epicenter of the album. It has all the Enya signposts in a song that could be of lost love, or could be a hymn to the universe.It was Echoes December CD of the Month in 2015.

4. The Celts
This is her first album, originally released as Enya in 1986 and reissued later as The Celts.  The soundtrack for a BBC television series, Enya mixes her choral chants with sweet ballads and a few instrumentals.  It’s simpler than her succeeding albums, but more direct.  Even though this was the beginning of the triumvirate of Enya, producer Nicky Ryan and lyricist Roma Ryan, they still sounded like they lived in the world and not the stone bubble of their castle.

5 The Memory of Trees
This album really started the Enya slide into crushing sentimentality.  Pop ditties like “Anywhere is” with its nursery rhyme schemes, is so sweet it makes me want to brush my teeth after listening.  But there are still some beautiful choral works like “Pax Deorum” and “Athair Are Neamh.”  With Latin and Gaelic lyrics, Enya creates an ornate and slightly mysterious vessel into which we pour our own emotions and images. Enya is always more powerful when drawing from her Celtic and Catholic roots.

It’s been 5 years since Enya’s last album which means a new one should be coming.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))