Album cover: Amarantine


Enya: Amarantine

Michael Wolffe

Now Playing Magazine (online) 22 December 2005

On her sixth studio album, Amarantine, Enya has broken several of her own long-standing traditions.

For the first time, the title song is neither the first track nor an instrumental, nor are there any songs in her native Gaelic. Most dramatically, three of the new songs are in a made-up language. Whether these breaks from the past were conscious or not, my suspicion is that Enya wants to convince her listeners she’s not falling into a creative rut. She needs to try harder.

Enya’s style is usually called New Age, but in fact she’s created her own musical niche. She composes her songs like layer cakes, adding strings and harmonies until they sound like an ethereal orchestra mixed with Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” approach. Her lyrics (written by Roma Ryan, her producer’s wife) are non-specific musings on life, love, mystery and beauty.

Amarantine opens promisingly with “Less Than a Pearl.” It’s a lush choral piece sung in Loxian, a language created by Enya and Ryan. Sample transcription: “Less than a pearl in a sea of stars, we are a lost island in the shadows.” The song is a call to the universe, seeking companionship for a little blue pearl called Earth.

The title song is equally striking. Amaranths are flowers that never fade (in poetic myth, anyway), and “amaranthine” means forever beautiful and unfading. Enya took poetic license with the spelling, but the message of “Amarantine” is that love, like the amaranth, is eternal: “You know love is with you when you rise, for night and day belong to love.” You have to give her credit for making such simple lyrics sound divine by wrapping them in a heavenly choir of Enyas.

After “Amarantine,” however, the quality of songwriting diminishes. “It’s in the Rain” creates little more than a sprinkle, emotionally speaking. “If I Could Be Where You Are” has a clunky title that matches its junior-high-level, lovesick lyrics and generic delivery.

Things pick up with “The River Sings,” a peppy, driving number sung in Loxian, and peak with “Long Long Journey,” in which the narrator anxiously awaits reunion with a loved one. Snare drumbeats roll in on the second chorus, lending the feel of a military march and evoking images of soldiers returning home from war. It’s quite effective and affecting.

Notes: Transcribed by Book of Days