Friday, November 21, 2008

Enya: "And Winter Came" Review

Enya does a Christmas album. Fans might hope for this to be a traditional Enya album that simply uses Christmas as the subject matter. In some areas, it works in this regard, but essentially, it sounds more like a tired Christmas special.

Part of the reason for this is simply that Enya is not what she used to be. Any fan of her music will tell you that her first few albums are (generally) beautiful, and her later albums, while not bad, simply aren't as moving. Take 2005's "Amarantine." It was a decent album, and it still had that mellow, soothing Enya style, but it fell short in originality. The same is true of "And Winter Came," but to a greater degree.

Although most of these songs are Enya's own, most of them sound more like old Christmas carols than original works. The melodies are painfully predictable, and the punchy, major-key vocals of "White is the Winter Night" and "One Toy Soldier" just don't carry much emotion.

There are a few songs that might be worth a listen for Enya fans. "Trains and Winter Rains" sounds more like a true Enya original. "Last Time By Moonlight" is the warmest song on the album. I wish the rest of the songs sounded more like this one; it's classic Enya, and it works. I see "Stars and Moonlight Blue" as a bit of a missed opportunity, as it has a similar vocal style and a suitable melody, but it needs a bit more warmth (and volume) in the strings and a bit more color to the chords to capture the same beauty.

In addition to the original works, there are a couple of actual Christmas carols on the album. "O Come O Come Emanuel" starts off right: a vocal solo drenched in reverb over a constant low drone. Then when it starts to pick up in the remaining verses, it suddenly loses it's flavor. The biggest problem with it is the way she (or her producer, I suppose) textures the vocals with... I'm not sure what it is, but it makes her voice sound electronic and unnatural. Granted, she uses this effect in almost all her songs when she sings chords, but here, it just doesn't fit. The second carol is "Silent Night." All I can say about it is that if you're an Enya fan who also happens to like Christmas music, you'll love it. It centers on vocals, dripping with reverb, and, well, it's good. Not amazing, but good.

I just want to make a quick note about "My! My! Time Flies!" What is this? It's a total reversal in style from the rest of the album, and it comes right at the end, followed only by "Silent Night." It's not that it's a horrible song; it just doesn't fit with this album in any way. Is that an electric guitar I hear? What?

But enough of that. If you're a fan of Enya, you will surely appreciate the gems of this album, and they might be worth downloading to add to your Enya mix. On the whole, though, "And Winter Came" is a disappointment and a mere shadow of what Enya has proven herself to be capable of. Even her recent albums are far superior to this one, and for that reason, I think fans will ultimately be disappointed.

Caius's Rating: 1.5 stars

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