I know, I know, it's Enya, for crying out loud. What are you, the sophisticated, indie rock listening, Irish trad-playing, classical music aficionado doing listening to Enya?
Well, ever since I heard "Orinoco Flow" about 15 years ago, I've harbored a secret liking for the ethereal one woman show. Overdubbing, synthesizers, and dead languages? What's not to love? Mostly I think I was attracted to something unlike anything else I had heard at the time. Enya's earlier work still stands as a great artistic achievement.
That said, Enya's career is effectively over, and Amarantine probably isn't going to resurrect it. This album contains only hints of her former greatness, and nothing nearly as catchy as her greater hits. The best music on the album is the title track, and this one suffers from her perennial weakness in lyrics. There are a few other good tracks on this one, but perhaps she's exhausted the possibilities of her distinct style.
I'm reflecting though, in writing this, that I don't know the best way to approach criticism of music. Do I ask, is it unique? Unique doesn't necessarily mean good (think Richard D. James using sandpaper on his turntables) and it doesn't necessarily mean bad (think Jet. Ok, maybe that's a bad example) Is it consistent with the artist's style? Why does this matter? Do I ask, is it technically proficient? Musically complicated? Tom Petty has proved you don't need that to succeed. It comes down to some combination of all these considerations, plus the intangible, "do I like it?"
As far as Amarantine is concerned, it certainly isn't innovative like her earlier stuff was, but it isn't bad. The balance of the album is just like those tracks from her previous albums which filled in the gaps between the hits. Atmospheric, sure. Great art? I don't know. Whatever it is, it works just fine as background music while I study. Which is where I'm going now.