Enya: And Winter Came
New Age Music.nu (online) Nov. 23, 2008
Enya's present to the world this Christmas is neither surprising nor original, but still a welcome gift to her millions of fans. Christmas is after all about tradition, and Enya would hardly do something totally different and new. It would be out of character, and probably a disappointment to many. And Winter Came is nothing more and nothing less than another nice Enya release. The warm colors of Amarantine are gone. Now she's dressed in snow white.
The album is as usual produced by Nicky Ryan, with lyrics by Roma Ryan. Enya's style really needs no presentation: her ethereal voice, the sometimes fast and sometimes slow synth strings, frequent bells and chimes, plus the heavy (heavenly?) reverb. It has been imitated by many, but never paralleled. It is almost a sub-genre of its own. On And Winter Came Enya's voice is as beautiful as ever, and the production is spotless. Or, almost spotless... It might only be my ears, but the Gaude, gaude, Emanuel at 1min46sec on track four, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, is a bit too loud and sharp.
But hey, perhaps this is a hint of the new Enya?
On the first track it is like a big white canvas is brought into the studio. With the first hum, Enya paints herself in a snow covered landscape. The el piano and the rich pads fill the rest. It reminds of previous slow songs like Deora Ar Mo Chroi on A Day Without Rain. A fine intro, but nothing more. Track no. two, Journey of the Angels, is more to the point. Enya sings, um yes, like an angel. It's the longest track on the album, and the lyrics is Christmas-oriented, Tonight/all sing/Oh, angels/a new-born king. Nice lyrics indeed.
The next track out, White Is The Winter Night, is a happy and fast winter song. It is a good example of Enya's unique use of powerful synth strings, which fill the soundscape. Some layers of vocal pads are added here and there, plus of course Enya's singing, but the synth strings are in a way everything. And that's ok because it is simple and elegant.
When listening to White Is The Winter Night you can feel the Christmas atmosphere: Green is in the mistletoe and red is in the holly/Silver in the stars above that shine on everybody. The song ends with: Have you heard that bells are ringing, ringing out their story, Have you heard the choir singing, Glory, Glory Glory. Like a winter wonderland, no doubt about that.
Enya's version of the popular Christian hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel is beautiful (with exception of the part mentioned above). This slow song is almost like an anticlimax after the fast White Is The Winter Night. The first single from the album, Trains and Winter Rains, is track no. 5. Here the perspective is different from the good old Christmas theme on the previous tracks. Listen to the lyrics: Neon signs in the night/Red and blue city lights/Cargo trains rolling by/Once again someone cries/Trains and winter rains. The music video to this song shows a city skyline at night, with people waiting for a train and few snowflakes are drifting in the air. Waiting for transportation is also a part of the modern Christmas experience, right?
Track no. seven and eight, Dreams Are More Precious and Last Time By Moonlight are two slow songs. It is romantic and dreamy background music, just the way we like it.
The most interesting track on the album is One Toy Soldier, Enya's very own Little Drummer Boy (but without the pa rum pum pum pum, I might add). The toy soldier plays his drum to keep the time, but the drum is suddenly broken. Then Someone has come to mend his drum/Now his heart lights up with pride. It is a symbol of a child's imagination. The toy soldier is alive, and has feelings. The classical Christmas bells in the end are beautiful together with the Happy Christmas Day to you!
On a winter inspired album like this Enya of course needed some darker and colder tracks as well. The two tracks Stars and Midnight Blue and The Spirit of Christmas Past are slower and more thoughtful.
My! My! Times Flies! is a rock inspired Enya song, with guitar and a funny selection of historical references: A man underneath a tree/ An apple falls on his head (Presumably Newton). A man wrote a symphony/It's 1812 (Tchaikovsky). And: Four guys across Abbey Road/One forgot to wear shoes (Paul McCartney). Cool and a little surprising, don't you think? Enya's right: time does fly.
In the end Enya sings Silent Night in her native Irish. It is one of the most heartfelt versions of the song I have ever heard. When the angels sang about Baby Jesus to the shepherds, I guess it sounded something like this. I would gladly buy the complete album just for this incredible version of Silent Night.
And Winter Came is a fine Enya album with few surprises. You know what you're getting when you put this album on for the first time. And that is ok, Chocolate is supposed to taste like chocolate and Enya is Enya. The album is beautiful and welcome, like Christmas itself.
Note: Transcribed by Book of Days.