Since the late '80s, Irish singer/composer Enya has become the most unlikely of international stars, delivering lush, Celtic-driven pseudo-classical odes in her signature Wall of Sound vocal style, rarely granting interviews, never touring, and generally taking as much time as she wishes between albums. Bucking odds and industry trends, her popularity has remained steadfast, allowing her to become the best-selling Irish solo artist of all time. Following 2008's snowbound And Winter Came, her silence stretched to eight years -- the longest of her career -- before the mists once again parted to reveal her eighth album, the evocatively titled Dark Sky Island. Named for Sark, the smallest of Britain's Channel Islands and first in the world receive the Dark Sky designation for its lack of light pollution, it has all the thematic and sonic hallmarks typical of an Enya release but with significantly more highlights than on her two prior works. Since the release of her 1986 debut, changes in her overall approach have been subtle and critics have often derided her for her unwavering dedication to dated, late-'80s synth patches and her reliance on formulaic methods, but Enya's consistency is actually one of her greatest assets. Her low public profile -- especially in the age of social media -- demands that her music remains the sole focus, and even if she and collaborators Roma and Nicky Ryan choose to keep working within their unique, self-designed milieu, it's one that they own completely and have nurtured over the years. Opening track "The Humming," with its eerie staccato swing and mystical musings on the cycles of the universe, is one of the strongest tracks she's produced in decades and resembles a dark cousin to 1991's masterwork "Caribbean Blue." Inspired lead single "Echoes of Rain" also harkens back to her Shepherd Moons heyday and features some fine, cascading piano work amid the pulsing strings and exalted vocal layers. Dark Sky Island also marks the return of Loxian, a language lyricist Roma Ryan first created for Enya on 2005's Amarantine and which is used here on the lavish march "The Forge of Angels" and the powerful "The Loxian Gate," which again echoes early Watermark-era standouts like "Storms in Africa" and "The Longships." While it would be unfair to call Dark Sky Island a throwback, it does manage to harness some of the power and creativity of Enya's early days and pairs it with both the confidence and shadows of age. ~ Timothy Monger
Pitchfork (Website) - "Enya's music is primarily about distance: between minutes, between people, between stars. Her songs stretch accordingly, synthesizers advancing and receding within them like shadows."
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