Enya

Watermark (1988)

Thoughts Before Listening

Scott

I remember Enya being a very unlikely hit-maker. Her music was cool, but definitely not your usual Top 100 fare (let alone Top 10). This album has a Celtic feel, and most would place it squarely within the New Age category. I suppose that’s apt – it’s what I used to put on when I wanted to relax / chill out. I don’t remember much of the album, aside from the hit. It’s the least pop/rock album we’ve reviewed so far (sorry Bobby) and is likely to hold that honour for quite some time. Let’s dive in and see what stands out, if anything.

Weh-Ming

I was introduced to Enya in high school. I don’t mean literally, though that would have been really cool. The theatre/artsy kids that I hung out with started listening to her and she became part of the soundtrack of my teenage years. She was like Tori Amos (are we going to do Tori Amos?) in that she didn’t sound like anything else that I’d ever been exposed to.

I played a lot of role playing games back in the day, and whenever we’d have a fantasy themed game she’d be playing in the background. She sounds like fantasy, you know? I can remember having conversations about if there really were elves and The Lord of the Rings was ever going to be made into a movie, she’s what it would sound like.

I mentioned that to Scott and he read her wikipedia to me and, as it turns out, she did sing on The Lord of the Rings soundtrack. So yeah, that makes sense.

Also, this is the soundtrack that played in gift shops for about 20 years solid. You wanna buy a snow globe of a nondescript building with the name of the city you’re visiting printed on it? You’re gonna listen to this album while it’s happening.


Other Songs of Note

The icing on the cake

“Storms in Africa” – 9 points

Scott (5 points)

I love this one. The drums work – they really add a sense of urgency that the rest of the album lacks to this point. The other instruments work as well (I have no idea what they are, or if even if they’re real or all synth). As usual, really nice many-layered vocals. Normally we only review the songs that were on the original release, but my CD from 30 years ago has the “bonus” track “Storms in Africa (Part II)” tacked on to the end. It’s essentially a reprise of this song, but with thunder crashing and an awesome breakdown at the 2 minute mark. For me, this is the true final track, and it closes things out magnificently.

Weh-Ming (4 points)

Dang it Enya, you just make it seem so effortless. Soft, delicate even, to start off, then building to a crescendo like a storm. In Africa. Enya only puts out an album every 3-7 years, and when you listen to songs like this you know she’s not just watching TV all day.


“Na Laetha Geal M’óige” – 8 points

Weh-Ming (5 points)

I love this song. No idea what’s going on, but it’s like it goes to that part of my brain that controls anxiety and says “there, there” while wrapping it in a giant duvet like a burrito and rocking it in her arms.

SCOTT (3 points)

Now this is a lament! Enya is singing about the loss of youth, and reflecting on the times that were; the title roughly translates as “The Bright Days of My Youth”. This feels particularly Irish (I suspect in no small part because it is sung in Irish Gaelic).


“On Your Shore” – 5 points

Weh-Ming (3 points)

Literally, haunting music. I love it. It’s just beautiful. An amazing poem wrapped up in a simple melody.

SCOTT (2 POINTS)

It almost sounds like a song from Twin Peaks with all of the menace and uneasiness removed. It’s a rather beautiful song overall. I very much enjoy the purity of her voice in this one. I wasn’t sure which of the super-mellow, sparse synth-line and voice arrangements would get points, but “On Your Shore” edged out the others (Evening Falls, Exile, etc.) On another day, either of them could take this spot.

What we would put on our personal mixtapes

“Miss Clare Remembers”

Scott (4 points)

Beautiful piano. No vocals whatsoever – just the piano and a lot of sustain. This one really stands out.

Weh-Ming’s Comment

I could feel the tension leaving my soul listening to this.

“Cursum Perficio”

Weh-Ming (2 points)

This was one of the “something big is about to happen songs” in our game. Like, the army is marching on the castle big. Or we had to escape the big bad guy. Singing in Latin is badass, which is why I guess magic spells in movies and books always sound vaguely Latin?

SCOTT’s Comment

Very interesting chanting and soooooooo many layers of vocals. I’d forgotten how neat the vocals were. Wow, there’s some DEEP bass going on under there. My headphones can barely reproduce it. Nice tune. It sounds very grandiose and takes itself very seriously. Probably my favorite song in Latin inspired by Marilyn Monroe that we’ve listened to yet.



“Watermark”

Scott (1 points)

It’s going to be hard reviewing this with my eyes closed – it’s a good thing I can touch type. Slow, sleepy, meditative, relaxing – these are all words that I’m going to be struggling not to overuse. I love the feeling of the surf and the waves coming in and out that the vocals evoke. It does a great job of setting the tone for the record as well.

WEH-MING’s Comment

Oh yes. This takes me back. Waaaaaay back. I feel like an awkward teenager who nobody understands and it’s not just a phase! It really does set the tone for the rest of the album: I hope you like a lot of this, because you’re gonna get it.


“The Longships”

Weh-Ming (1 points)

This was one of the “something big is about to happen songs” in our game. Like, I do not understand anything that’s being sung, but I will listen to it over and over.

SCOTT’s Comment

Very chill. Feels somewhat sweeping in its scope. I don’t dislike it – it just doesn’t really stand out amongst the other tracks in any particular way.


Final Thoughts

Scott

I stayed awake! I joke, I joke – mostly. The album is very coherent, thematically sticking with water throughout, and musically not moving too far away from the ethereal Celtic vibe established early on. I feel that there’s enough variety in pacing and tone to keep it from sounding too samey, but I can see how someone else might feel differently. It really helps that (and this also challenges the New Age categorization) most songs truly have a lovely melody.

This is another album that I don’t think has a bad song. It really might not be your jam, but the production quality is high and the songs are well written. It’s not the quality of the work that makes it such an unlikely album to have a Top 10 hit – it’s the style, the genre. The very fact that this Celtic borderline-ambient music hit the charts at all is kind of amazing.

Weh-Ming

I love this album. It’s old, but not out of touch or outdated. It’s like a finding super comfy sweater you used to wear all the time, and you put it on and all of a sudden you smell autumn and rain starts pelting the window and you have a cup of hot chocolate in your hand that’s just the perfect temperature and oh, look at that, a message that everything you had to do today was just cancelled, so you open up that book you’ve been just itching to get to.

And you know what? I have been having really poor quality sleep for a while now. After listening to this album for the first time, I slept better. Listened to it again last night, best night of sleep in weeks. I love you Enya.


Yeah But What Else

Scott

Down the Rabbit Hole (Additional listening inspired by this week’s review.)

Watermark was the album that I reached for for years when I wanted to close my eyes and just drift away for a while. Rather than my normal list this week, I’m going to chronicle a bunch of the songs that I play when I want to feel more like however I’m feeling.

New Order – “Blue Monday” – NOSTALGIC – When I want to feel transported back to being a teenager, it’s usually this track or anything else off of Substance that gets dusted off. As soon as it starts, I’m there. (Alternate for this mood – Pet Shop Boys – “West End Girls”)

Method Man & Redman – “Da Rockwilder” – NEEDING A CONFIDENCE BOOST / FOCUS – This epic jam by Meth and Redman is bangin’. Seriously, if this doesn’t get you bobbing your head, something might be broken. Probably the greatest example of “leave them wanting more” ever recorded. (Alternate for this mood – LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out”)

M83 – “Midnight City” – HAPPY – In contention for my favourite song of all time. It just makes me happy (or happiER in this case). (Alternate for this mood – lots of songs can fill this spot, but today it’s going to be the insanely infectious – Belle & Sebastian – “The Party Line”)

Nine Inch Nails – “March of the Pigs” – ANGRY AND ANNOYED WITH THE WORLD – It’s not quite as jarringly angry and industrial today as it was then, but it still gets the job done. For full effect, the entirety of The Downward Spiral is recommended. (Alternate for this mood – Tool – “Ticks and Leeches” – Dear god those drums.)

Jamiroquai – “Canned Heat” – TO HELL WITH THE WORLD, I JUST WANT TO DANCE – What can I say, this track makes my feet move and it’s good enough that while I’m listening to it I’m not thinking about anything else. (Alternate for this mood – Metric – “Monster Hospital (MSTRKRFT Remix))

Weh-Ming

Weird Al has never done an Enya parody. I think he’s proven that he’s got a pretty decent vocal range for being able to parody so many varied artists, but Enya is on another level and her music just doesn’t lend to parody.

If they ever should meet, her absolute chill and his frantic energy would generate a creative negative space in which time and matter mean nothing. Or she translates “Eat It” into Elvish.

Final interesting note: I have never read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. When I say that Enya made me talk about how she was the perfect voice for it, understand that I had no idea what I was talking about, yet I very much held a deep sense of self satisfaction for being so very right.

4 Comments

  1. “Boadicea” was in fact sampled in 1996’s Fugees “Ready or not” song, and during all my teenager’s life I thought she was singing “C’est Noël, c’est Noël, c’est Noël…”

    My favorite “Only time”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a huge Enya fan, have been since first hearing her back in the 90’s. My first introduction was actually to her third album, Shepherd Moons, and the amazing song Carribean Blue. I was captivated by the sound, and finding out later how she recorded the layered (and layered, and LAYERED) vocals only made me love it more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love Enya, Shepherd Moons is a great album as well. She kinda started phoning it in after that, but the first three albums are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

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