Dark Sky Island is the upcoming eighth studio album by Irish musician Enya, and was released on 20 November 2015. The album was announced by Enya on her website in September 2015. The title, first single and track listing were announced on 7 October 2015. Along with standard and deluxe editions on digital formats, a vinyl edition was made available, making Dark Sky Island Enya’s first vinyl release since her self-titled album’s re-release in 1992.
The name of the album was inspired by the designation of the island of Sark as a “dark sky island” as well as a series of poetry books by Roma Ryan on islands. The album’s title track was the first song to be written for the album.
Enya herself described the album as having a ‘theme of journeys’ – “Journeys to the island; through a length of a lifetime; throughout history; throughout emotions; and through journeys across great oceans”. Although the album has an underlying connections of journeys, Enya also stated it is not a ‘themed album’ as her previous winter-themed album And Winter Came was.
Album opener “The Humming…” is a song “that muses on the cycle of the universe and how change affects everything”. It started off as “a small melody line that Enya began to hum”, recalled producer Nicky Ryan. “It’s rather appropriate as the title refers to the sound of the early universe which is at around 47 octaves below the lowest piano key”. Nicky revealed that scientific work on compressing and pitching the vibration to be audible to humans, “picked up by the Planck space telescope”, turned the sound into a humming, giving the song a fitting title. Musically the song was described as infectious and magical, being compared to well-known Enya hits like “Caribbean Blue”. “The Humming…” does not refer to The Hum however, although it does draw similar parallels.
“So I Could Find My Way” is a slow, sentimental song, set in waltz time and composed in the key of D major; Enya described the melody as ‘very emotional’. Enya explained the song was dedicated to her producer and friend Nicky Ryan’s mother Mona who died years ago, saying she ‘got to know her very well’ once she moved to Dublin. She added that the subject of ‘a mother moving on’ is ‘something quite universal… You think about what she left behind in your life. That’s what you’ll always remember. What her stories were, what she was hoping for you; hoping you’d find your way’.
The second single “Even in the Shadows” features a one-off guest appearance courtesy of Irish rock and jazz musician Eddie Lee, who contributes to the tracks “pulsing, insistent rhythm” with double bass. Lee is a member of the Sligo band Those Nervous Animals, who were label mates (under the Tara Music label) of the Brennan family bandClannad in the early 1980s; Enya was a member of Clannad from 1980-1982.
Loxian language, created by the trio’s lyricist Roma Ryan, makes a comeback in song on “Dark Sky Island” for the first time since the release of Amarantine and its accompanying book Water Shows the Hidden Heart, in songs “The Forge of Angels” and “The Loxian Gates”. These songs in particular focus on the “intergalactic theme” and otherworldly andfuturistic tales Roma Ryan uses Loxian for, along with the non-Loxian “Astra et Luna”.
The single “Echoes In Rain” has a “buoyant optimism” and the lavish vocal work somewhat reminiscent of “Orinoco Flow”. It is played in a minor scale (explicitly F-sharp minor) and has a “marching rhythm celebrating a journey’s end”. The song includes a piano-based bridge, similar to Enya’s piano solo work, and it is the first for a lead single to do so. Enya’s vocals span 2 octaves from the low note of B2 to the high note of E5. The lyrics describe the feelings of a long journey home, travelling through night and through day, with the verses detailing how the surroundings and emotions change throughout the journey.
“I Could Never Say Goodbye” is a classic Irish lament Enya has become well known for, with “a sparse, hymnal arrangement”.
“Sancta Maria” is a blending of synthesisers and classical instrumentation, to go with the melody that gathers both new and old styles together. The press release called it “almost a history of sound encapsulated in four hypnotic and otherworldly minutes”.
1. “The Humming”
2. “So I Could Find My Way”
3. “Even in the Shadows”
4. “The Forge of the Angels”
5. “Echoes in Rain”
6. “I Could Never Say Goodbye”
7. “Dark Sky Island”
8. “Sancta Maria”
9. “Astra et Luna”
10. “The Loxian Gates”
11. “Diamonds on the Water”
13. “Pale Grass Blue”
14. “Remember Your Smile”