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Dark Sky Island Ryan Alexander Diduck , November 26th, 2015 18:19

Were it my solemn duty to compile a list of the finest things we human creatures have ever created – for a time capsule, say, or a diplomatic encounter with alien species – the songs of Enya would be paramount. I can imagine nothing superior to represent the beauty of being alive right now. For we live in a very, very beautiful world. And sometimes we require a swift reminding. Thankfully, to that end, Enya has graced us with another chapter in her book of days – and not a moment too soon.

For anyone remotely acquainted with Enya (and really, who hasn't joyously sang "sail away sail away sail away!" at the top of their lungs?), Dark Sky Island will feel immediately familiar. Since the mid-1980s, she and her two songwriting partners, Roma and Nicky Ryan, have been building a sort of sonic vernacular – a super-linguistic musical dialect. It's one part Celtic folk, one part classical romantic, and one part lucid dream. And so, Enya's albums are akin to a conversation with an old friend: you just pick right up where you left off, as if no time had passed betwixt.

As much as one might be compelled to call this new work a return to form, it wouldn't quite be accurate. There was never really a departure. Yet, that is not to say that it all sounds the same. It does not. There have been subtle nuances over the course of her oeuvre – some hits and some misses. Nevertheless, it does feel like Enya's strongest effort in years, and that is not at the expense of previous records. Dark Sky Island is Enya operating at her most maximal and self-aware.

The lead single, 'Echoes In Rain', for example, harkens back to her Watermark/Shepherd Moons era without sounding retromanaical. Few can get away with a chorus of hallelujahs while avoiding the overt religious overtones, or sounding too saccharine – like the soundtrack to a slideshow of landscape photos. But Enya can. Still, for me, the standout track is 'Even In The Shadows'. It's a slow stomper that could easily sit alongside Mercury Rev, or the most hopeful of Godspeed's Lift Yr Skinny Fists. The entire album is an antidote to broism, the polar opposite of hypergrunge or whatever is the flavour of the day. It's a salve for the musical soul, a shower of frequency. Be still and let it wash over you.

I received the link to stream the record on my 38th birthday. It might have been the best present I've ever been given. After the bottle of Veuve and the mushroom tea and the laughter and debauchery, I put on my headphones and listened. I wept. I wept and wept like an innocent child overcome by the wonder and whimsy of every little thing. Then it struck me. Enya's work is more than music; it's a moral compass. It's a lighthouse on the shore of an unsettled and stormy sea. It's a gleaming beacon for all that's good and pure and true. May we be wise enough to follow.