Saturday, May 28, 2011

Essential Albums of the '80s: Enya - Watermark (1988)

Last week I profiled the '80s biggest heavy metal album. This week I take the most significant about-face possible and look at the decade's most popular new age album.

Enya's Watermark may not have set the pop charts on fire, but pretty much everyone seems to have one of her albums lying around someplace. Many people consider it to be merely inoffensive, which isn't fair really, since that downplays how quite lovely it is. Versatile too. I'm sure millions of people have enjoyed as the soundtrack to dinner, evening reading, massage and sex.

To say it's a "quiet" album is to skip over the growing intensity of "Carsum Perficio." To say it all sounds the same is to miss how much that song contrasts with the gentle synth-based track "On Your Shore" that follows. The albums most pop-leaning track, "Orinoco Flow," was a major international hit for the star, and while it's great, it's one of many highlights here. I'm particularly taken by the sensual instrumental title track.

Although Enya is often referred to as a new age artist, the Irish singer's sound is really a clever hybrid of new age, pop, electronic, and world music. What really sets her apart though is her signature multi-tracked vocals, as if we're listening to not one Gaelic chanteuse but an army of them. Thus her voice becomes an instrument on par with any other sound she wants to throw in the mix. Even the booming drums on "Storms in Africa" are no match for her.

Watermark put Enya on the map and she stuck around for quite some time, releasing similar albums of lushly orchestrated vocal-electronic music. Most significantly, her 2001 single, "Only Time," became a major hit after its emotional message resonated with the public following 9/11.

Best: Orinoco Flow (Sail Away), Watermark, Storms in Africa, Carsum Perficio


Chris B. said...

Nicely written review, dear.

ww_adh said...