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The purest beauty

Amarantine
Amarantine
By Enya

Reprise Records: 2005

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This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2005.

Once a member of Irish folk traditionalists Clannad, possessed of a voice so gorgeous as to make Judy Collins sound like Froggy from "Little Rascals," and creator of a wall of sound style of arrangement so lush that it can simultaneously seduce and suffocate, Irish singer Enya has become a sort of self-parody.

But before relegating her to the new age ghetto, let's at least acknolwedge that Enya borrows heavily in her vocal arrangements from experimental pop artists Kate Bush and Jane Siberry. Her arrangements may be plusher than the floor carpeting on a low-rider's '57 Chevy, but there is a stately grace to them that demands a certain admiration.

Besides, the title track on her new album may be the loveliest soundtrack-styled song since her own "Orinoco Flow" from 1988. Full of the same aural ear candy as the now-classic "Orinoco" – the rich vocal harmonies, the pizzicato violin dancing over harp and keyboards – "Amarantine" may be even more seductive. Slower, in a lower register where her voice is even richer, the song has the feel of an Oscar-winning song in search of a film worthy of it's beauty.

Nearly as easy to get lost in is "Someone Said Goodbye" – anchored not only by that voice of hers, but by contrasting passages between a spare piano arrangement and full string section (even if virtual, as the liner notes credit her with all instruments).

The rest of the album may not be quite up to this standard, but it's nonetheless a listenable, entertaining collection. Again joined by longtime lyricist Roma Ryan and producer Nicky Ryan, the combination of rich multi-instrumental backgrounds, Celtic motifs from her native Ireland offer nothing groundbreaking or particularly new – but may be her most polished effort yet.

If nothing else, in "Amarantine" and "Someone Said Goodbye," this new release contains two of her best songs yet.