Album Review: “Dark Sky Island” – Enya

^stand out track

I could spurt about how much I love Enya and her albums; how they fill me with so many differing emotions and complexities blah blah. Instead, I want to focus on the latest endeavour from the holy triad (Nicky & Roma Ryan, and Enya). As usual, the album title evokes alot of mystery (remember Amarantine?, or …And Winter Came?). I’m going to do a track by track analysis of this album; thematically about journeys abroad, journeys interstellar, and journeys home. Only Enya can get away with singing about a group of celtic tribes folk reaching clusters of stars for their homeland through intergalactic travel and make it sound plausible!

1. The Humming…

It’s so akin to her dark monk chanting Latin-type songs such as “Cursum Purifico” and “Tempus Vernum”. It’s a great opening track, in that it gently re-introduces us to her world, her voice, and the compositions. It’s a simple, yet meditative tune; especially the humming bits.

2. So I Could Find My Way

Enya is pretty famous in her career for these gentle Irish balladry. I’m so used to these tracks on each of her albums, and while they don’t usually vary that much, this one is a stand out. The lyrics, the tune, and her soft voice all work so well here. One of my favourites on the album since it stands apart and is the softest and gentlest side on Enya on this album.

3. Even In The Shadows 

This one is a fan favourite. Why? It’s a whole new side of Enya. She talks about a lost love (Enya in Love??!) and the beat hits HARD here. Well, for Enya at least, this is some hard hitting beats. It’s also one of the more radio-friendly songs and catchy to boot. So far so good Enya! 🙂

4. Forge Of The Angels

No, Just NO! This song is mediocre, and overstays its welcome. This is the track Enya-haters will point out as testament to her music being “samey”. But they are partially right, this track is not only ceaselessly boring, it just panders along and doesn’t go anywhere. It’s like they came up with a fantastic title for the song, because they knew in their hearts how mediocre it was. It’s mind boggling that this is the fourth track; how agreed and put a consensus on this!?

5. Echoes In Rain 

The most radio-friendly, and one of the best songs in her catalogue thus far. Is it alot like Orinoco Flow? Yes, and No. But it’s anthemic and grows on you. I must admit, the refrain of Alleluia’s threw me off the first time; I don’t want to feel like I’m in church. After a few listens, I changed my tune; it’s such a great hook and ethereal in delivery. This song captures the spirit of Dark Sky Island: mysterious, darkness and journeying.

6. I Could Never Say Goodbye

At one point, this sounds ALOT like “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”; it’s probably the chord progression. This one is another ballad on display. I appreciated the upper register vocals on this track; she has never sounded better. I do have a problem with this track being smack bang in the middle of the record; for me it can feel like a snoozefest after a while. It would’ve been better to chuck this second last

7. Dark Sky Island

Ah, the titular title track! This is my absolute favourite on the record, really, what’s not to love!? The choral progression in the bridge evokes that wonder at looking at stars at night. Enya’s constant “Come back to me” gathers the darkness around here and invites the stars on display. The image painted here of a dark night, lit up by stars is absolutely enchanting. Interestingly, we hear alot of lower register notes towards the end; which is a great change of palate.

8. “Sancta Maria”, 9. “Astra Et Luna” 

The rest of the album shimmers away. Let’s not forget (in my mind) the two part song “Sancta Maria” and “Astra Et Luna“. These two tracks seem like companions, both immediately different but solidified by their Latin-sung roots, and celestial ambience. “Sancta” has such an 80’s vibe to it; it could be played in some church or on the plains of Africa and still make sense in a spiritual way. That harpsichord is ridiculous in 2015, and just proves Enya doesn’t give a fuck what’s popular these days.
Astra” indeed, is towards the end of the record; but Enya proves she still has some quality tracks to go around! It’s sonically a fascinating listen, but offers nothing new to the Enya-table.

10. “The Loxian Gate” 

Alas, it isn’t without fault; “The Loxian Gate” tries so hard to be something special but comes across as mindless singing (like “Forge”). Is it a coincidence that they are both sung in Loxian? I just don’t dig it! It’s still miles above other tracks sung in Loxian however. I appreciate the vision she has set up behind the song; but I really wish I could love the song without knowing the mystery behind the lyrics. It could probably pull it off for me if there was a music video with a  Neverending-Story-Falkor -the-Luckdragon-ride over-Fantasia-vibe. That’ll never happen.

11. “Diamonds On The Water” 

The last track in the standard edition is naff, we’ve heard all of this on this album already, it doesn’t add anything new, and doesn’t end the album off well either. Thank god for the bonus tracks 🙂

BONUS TRACK(S) 

The only bonus track worth mentioning (out of the 3) is “Pale Grass Blue”; its catchy, its different, its very NOW, and it’s very Enya. I’m at a loss as to why this couldn’t replace Forge. This track doesn’t really fit in with the ambience and theme of the album I get that; but it really is too good not to pass up!

Conclusion

Enya-DarkSkyIslandHer best work in years (since “A Day Without Rain”). Honestly, this is a great album; it’s not more of the same and it’s different enough to hold on it’s on. Enya might say there’s no thematic value in the album but I disagree. The soundscapes and imagery produced are about journeys and travel and intergalactic ones at that. The Dark Sky Island album title alludes to dark and mysterious journeys; which are all on display in each track. Just avoid track 4; it’s not worth your 5 minutes!
I love Enya’s music to bits; there is something special here, and the Triad haven’t lost their touch at all. Bring on the next album 🙂

Stand out tracks: So I Could Find My Way, Even In The Shadows, Echoes In Rain, Dark Sky Island, Pale Grass Blue. 

4 1/2 out of 5 Stars! Would have been a 5 if Track 4 and 11 were removed!

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3 thoughts on “Album Review: “Dark Sky Island” – Enya

  1. What a great review!! I will make sure to not listen to track four 🙂 but I really like how honest and real your opinion is about a artist that u love and obveriously want to do well. And from what I’ve heard she will do well with this next instalment!

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  2. I guess the reviewer has her own opinion but it’s totally opposite from mine in terms of stand out tracks. Track 4 is my favorite from the whole album. This is what Enya is known for. I love the melody and the deep percussion. I also love how they inluded the african chants in the middle. That was something new that Enya hasn’t done yet. Very experimental and I think they succeeded.

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    1. I think I was being way too harsh on those tracks! I think they do a great job, reminds me of “Storms in Africa”. I guess listeners have different shades of enya they love 🙂
      But I can see why you would love those songs! They’re growing on me now that I’ve given them a proper chance

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