While her siblings and uncles in Clannad may have created the Celtic/New Age hybrid genre, it was Enya who brought the style to its commercial and artistic peaks. Enya’s 1987 self-titled debut defined all the core elements of her sound, including multiply-layered tracks of synthesizers and vocals, and really sounded like nothing else at the time. Her commercial breakthrough came the following year with her sophomore effort Watermark and the massive hit single “Orinoco Flow.” More albums have followed, repeating both the same musical formula and the commercial results. While Enya has the reputation of being something of a recluse — she’s never toured, for one thing — she continues to release albums regularly. Her most recent effort, And Winter Came…, came out in November and features music related to Christmas and the season of winter.
The best and worst thing you can say about any Enya recording is that if you’re already familiar with her music, then you know exactly what to expect. And Winter Came… is no exception to the general pattern. Nicky Ryan has produced all of Enya’s music, and his wife Roma Ryan continues to write the lyrics to Enya’s musical compositions as she’s done for over twenty years. Enya herself remains the same one-woman orchestra and choir she’s always been, doing all the vocals and nearly all of the instrumentation. On one hand, there’s no denying that the formula has worked well for her. Her ambient musical textures retain the same hypnotic charm they’ve always had. But at the same time, it’s very hard to distinguish most of the songs on one Enya CD with most of the songs on any of her other recordings.
Invariably, though, one or two songs on each album stick out. On And Winter Came…, the two standout songs are “Trains and Winter Rains” (the leadoff single) and “My! My! Time Flies!” The latter song features the album’s one guest performer, guitarist Pat Farrell, and has an uncharacteristically lively tempo with quirky lyrics making reference to people as diverse as Isaac Newton and The Beatles. It’s a rare example of Enya letting her guard down a bit and audibly having fun with a particular song, and she should do songs like it more often.
And Winter Came… will undoubtedly appeal to people who are fans of Enya’s earlier work. It also gives enough reasons for people who might have gotten bored with her sound to tune back in.