Second only to U2 as the most successful Irish recording artist of all time, Enya has built an empire out of multi-tracking her beautiful voice over the same keyboard patches that appeared on her post-Clannad debut since 1987. It’s an empire that has progressed at a slow burn, peaking in 2000 and 2001 with her chart-topping ballad and unofficial post-September 11th anthem, “Only Time.”
Amarantine, Enya’s first full-length album in five years builds on her reputation as the world’s premier purveyor of audio comfort food, providing another collection of mini-soundtracks that are often as awkward in their earnestness as they are breathtaking in their production.
Boasting twelve new songs that retain the tapestry of sound that is her trademark, while stealthily stripping it of some of its excess, Enya has managed to both repeat herself and move forward without losing anything in the translation. Besides the swirling, “Ebudae”-esque the “River Sings,” Enya, lyricist Roma Ryan and producer Nicky Ryan have crafted the most subtle record of their careers, a move that may alienate some Watermark-era purists. Standout tracks like “Long, Long Journey,” “Water Shows the Hidden Heart” and the gorgeous-but lyrically embarrassing-title cut, show a newfound understanding of the simple power of Enya’s voice, resulting in an intimacy that’s eluded previous releases.
While Amarantine will do nothing to win over the wrongly-pegged new age artist’s many detractors, longtime fans will find enough moments of serendipitous pleasure to hold them over for another five years.
Rating: *** 1/2
AMG Track pick: Amarantine, The River Sings, Long Long Journey, Water Shows The Hidden Heart
All Music Guide | November 20, 2005
Having sold more than 65 million albums filled with her chilled-out synth-pop, new-age vocalist Enya has little reason to change her sound. Her sixth album (and her first in five years) blends uplifting melodies, classical motifs and trance-like chants in a familiar yet distinctive fashion. The 12 serene, synth-drenched tracks blur together as they float on predictable chord progressions and stacked harmonies, producing the perfect soundtrack to an epic historical film and long yoga stretches. On hypnotic opener “Less Than a Pearl” and two other songs, Enya sings in an imaginary language, which gives her multilayered vocals an outlandish texture, while the quietly bombastic “Sumiregusa” shows off her fluent Japanese. This album is calm and relaxing almost to a fault. How much you enjoy the balmy sounds may simply depend on what kind of day you‘ve had.
Billboard | November 19, 2005
Sung in English, and her first album with no Gaelic, Amarantine is Enya’s most accessible to date. Her multilayered vocals still appear as though from the ether, but on several songs, notably the title track and the lyrically simple Somebody Said Goodbye, they sound sweet and poppy, rather than ghostly. Enya critics will dismiss it as New Age nonsense, but Amarantine is a lovely album that is much more than a soothing listen.
The Times | November 18, 2005