Enya - And Winter Came
Hot Press Magazine (Ireland) Nov. 26, 2008
Star Rating: 4/5
Reluctant Superstar makes fresh and vital new record
Although almost anyone you stop in the street could tell you that U2 are Ireland’ biggest selling musical act I’d be surprised if the majority of people would put Enya directly after them. Fact is that the notoriously low-key singer has quietly worked her way into that position over the course of nine extraordinarily successful albums.
When you sell a lot of records and this may be so blindingly obvious that we’re tempted to miss it, you are – whether you set out to be or not – a pop act. Of course, that kind of commercial success brings with it it own type of pressure. U2 have reacted to it by self-consciously reinventing themselves over the course of their career while Enya, probably more unselfconsciously has chosen to develop organically, with a signature sound that hasn’t fundamentally changed.
It’s only fair at this point to point out the fact that Enya – the musical act - is not co-extensive with Eithne the person. An Enya record is in truth the sum of three people’s work and input with Nicky and Roma Ryan playing a hugely significant part in its sound, texture and meaning. They work as a very tightly focused unit, in a way operating much more to the notion of collective responsibility that is at the heart of a band enterprise, thinking and acting in tandem, rather than to the traditional notion of artist and producer as occupying two different worlds separated by an actual and metaphorical glass wall.
What they have created together is difficult to define. To paraphrase Bowie’s self-definition in the face of the onset of punk: there’s classical, there’s traditional and there’s Enya. She may have a foot in both of these camps but in the long run she plays entirely to her own rules.
This also leaves her free to bend those rules and on And Winter Came…more so than on any previous record there is a sense of playing with her relationship with pop music. She has recorded Christmas songs in the past of course – there have been mini-albums and even special expanded Christmas editions of Amarantine – but this is a fully fledged Christmas record. Like Elvis, like Phil Spector, even like Merle Haggard, she has taken on one of the classic pop forms and delivered.
Although her major hits have been in English, she has over the course f other career sung in a bewildering array of languages including Latin, Japanese and Loxian. Here however she sings almost entirely in English with the exception of the ubiquitous ‘Oíche Chiúin’. This heightens the sense that while drawing effectively on both the folk and classical traditions, And Winter Came is essentially a pop record; it also emphasises the fact that Enya sings entirely in her natural accent, which rings proudly through the songs without any hint of transatlantic colouring.
Of course it also lays bare the lyrical content which ranges from the straightforward (One Toy Soldier) to the genuinely poetic (Stars and Midnight Blue, Last Time by Moonlight). The production by Nicky Ryan is as bold and full of detail as ever – the trademark layered vocals and staccato synthesisers are still strongly in evidence – but the number of tracks that the lead vocal sits up above the mix in a much more conventional pop way as on the Jon Brion-esque ‘My! My! Time Flies!’.
The lead single ‘Trains and Winter Rains’ pulls both approaches together and has Enya singing backing vocals so intricate and orchestrated that they could have been transplanted from a Beach Boys record.
And Winter Came…doesn’t mark a radical departure from Enya’s previous work but it does have a real sense of freshness and zest to it and there’s an added sense of breathing space in the overall approach, as if the Enya triumvirate have tapped afresh into a new energy.
For those who’ve previously thought themselves too cool for Enya – although I doubt she’s too troubled by the notion of cool! – this mightn’t have moved far enough for them to make the leap. For the agnostics it’s a record with some very good pop songs on it. And for the dyed in the wool Enya fan, And Winter Came is just what the doctor ordered.
Key Track: M! My! Time Flies!
Note: Transcribed by Skyscape, Unity Fan Forum.