Enya: Amarantine

In 2004, Enya’s management company, Aigle, had to backpedal the overly enthusiastic announcements of Warner Bros. Japan regarding a new album by the meticulous Irish songstress.

So when Tower Records Japan started accepting pre-orders for a new Enya album back in September 2005, I had to wonder whether it would be for real.

To gauge whether I looked forward to a new Enya album, I took out A Day Without Rain, her previous album from 2000, and gave it a spin. At the time of its release, I didn’t warm up to it. When I listened to it again half a decade later, I confirmed what I couldn’t bring my long-time Enya-loving ass to consider — it really, really sucked.

Still, five years between albums is enough of a duration to pique curiosity, and I wondered whether Enya could once again record the same album she has for the past 20 years and still seduce listeners into loving submission.

I am pleased to announce Amarantine achieves that very goal. I am more pleased to announce it doesn’t suck.

At its core, Amarantine offers exactly the same thing as Watermark, Shepherds Moon, The Celts and The Memory of Trees — genteel music, painstakingly crafted, beautifully sung and warmly performed.

It doesn’t go for the misdirected sunniness of A Day Without Rain, nor does it go into the darkness of The Memory of Trees or Watermark.

Despite the homogenity of her discography, Amarantine is Enya’s most creative album so far.

She doesn’t follow the predictable sequencing of her previous albums — opening piano solo, requisite Latin track, a busy song half way through. She also doesn’t dip too far into sparse introspection — most of the songs are relatively full and mid-tempo for an Enya album.

The quick comparrison for the Enya fan is if she recorded an entire album of “China Roses”.

And while Enya is fond of singing in Latin, Irish and English, this time around she’s gone for Japanese (“Sumiregusa”) and an entirely fictitious language called Loxian.

Inspired by Enya’s work singing Elvish for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, lyricist Roma Ryan fashioned an entirely new language.

“Less Than a Pearl”, “Water Shows the Hidden Heart” and “The River Sings” show off this new tongue, although it sounds a lot like Irish Gaelic to me. “The River Sings” sounds like Scottish waulking music.

As for “Sumiregusa”, the song that sparked the backpedaling, it doesn’t sound anything like Japanese — Enya westernizes the vowels far too much. The song itself meanders a bit as well.

Nonetheless, Amarantine is a return to form for Eithne ni Bhroanain. She’s fashioned an album that doesn’t stray too far from the sound that brought her fame, but it stretches those parameters far enough to remain interesting.