AND WINTER CAME...
Warner Reprise Records
Angels take wing in "Journey of the Angels." Holly and mistletoe lend festive colors to "White Is In the Winter Night." A bright new star lights up the night in "Dreams Are More Precious." Lovers nestle closely enough to hear other's heartbeats on a snowy night in "Stars and Midnight Blue." In the bleak midwinter, the spirit of Christmas is something more pervasive than a single day on the calendar. Irish enchantress Enya has offered not a Christmas album, but rather an album-length meditation on the Yuletide season, its sound, its totems, its joys, its summons to reflection and introspection. Two specifically Christmas songs are a sort of binding thread—a sublime, stately and searching version of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and, 20 years after she first recorded it, "Silent Night," sung in her native Gaeilge language and rendered as a stately, calming prayer at journey's close—but otherwise this outing depicts Enya in a kind of winter wonderland viewed from her mind's eye. Warmly reflecting on an enduring love (the gentle, dreamy "Stars and Midnight Blue"), marveling at life's quickening pace (the Beatles-ish midtempo march, "My! My! Time Flies!," which does in fact reference "four guys across Abbey Road, one forgot to wear shoes" as well as Isaac Newton, Beethoven and Santa Claus, and gets a little goosing along from a piercing electric guitar solo) or wistfully musing on the alienation and loneliness shadowing the season of glad tidings (poignant scenes set to a contrasting bubbly rhythm and severe vocal in "Trains and Winter Rains"), she assesses the holiday experience from multiple angles most listeners will easily recognize and relate to. And since every action instigates an equal and opposite reaction, so do the muted hues of "Trains and Winter Rains" give way to the soothing ministrations offered to a bruised soul in the lullaby calm of "Dreams Are More Precious." Enya's long-time creative team of producer/arranger Nicky Ryan and lyricist Rona Ryan are solid as always, Nicky conjuring stirring, spectral soundscapes for Rona's elliptical lyrics; but it's Enya who sells it with her smart, nuanced, utterly distinctive interpretations. And Winter Came... is one for this season, and for many seasons to come.—David McGee