The first album in five years from Enya follows the biggest-selling album of her illustrious career, the six-times platinum A Day Without Rain, which transcended all commercial expectations. Having sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, Enya is one of the most successful female artists of all time and second only to U2 as the biggest selling Irish artist in history.
From the first blanket of choral voices awash in reverb, Amarantine
is instantly recognizable as a product of Enya, the Irish chanteuse who has created a genre unto herself. Although it's been five years since her last CD, on Amarantine
it's as if time stood still. The triumvirate of Enya, lyricist Roma Ryan, and producer Nicky Ryan work the formula they perfected on Watermark
, layering her voice in lush choirs pushed along by pizzicato synth strings, swooning orchestral pads, and harpsichord arpeggios. On tracks like "Less Than a Pearl" and "Drifting," Enya flirts with a timeless sound born in gothic chants and hymns. The former is one of three songs that she sings in Roma Ryan's fictitious language of Loxian. It seems to free her, especially on "The River Sings," a veritable rave-up where she gets the tribal choir going in the style of Scottish mouth music. But to get there you have to slog through slo-mo ballads that manage to be dirge-like and singsong at the same time, like the Carpenters on Quaaludes. The relatively restrained arrangement of "It's in the Rain" almost attains a folk-like simplicity that Enya hasn't experienced since she sang with her siblings in Clannad a quarter-century ago. Amarantine
sounds like it was born in cloistered solitude, self-referentially echoing Enya albums past. --John Diliberto