Dark Sky Island is the eighth studio album from Irish singer, songwriter and musician Enya, released on 20 November 2015 by Warner Music internationally and by Reprise Records in the United States. Following the release of her 2008 album And Winter Came..., Enya took an extended break from writing and recording music until she started work on a new album in 2012 with her long time recording partners, arranger and producer Nicky Ryan and his wife, lyricist Roma Ryan. The album was inspired by the island of Sark and its recent designation as a dark-sky preserve, and a collection of Roma's poems on islands.
Dark Sky Island received positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success upon release. It peaked at number four in the United Kingdom – making it Enya's highest charting album in the country since Shepherd Moons in 1991 – and number eight on the Billboard 200 in the United States. Elsewhere, it reached the top-five in nine other countries. A vinyl edition was released on 18 December 2015, the first vinyl release from Enya since the 1992 reissue of her 1987 album, Enya. A Deluxe edition features three extra tracks. Enya promoted the album with a world tour that included several interviews and television performances of some of the album's songs, including a performance on 2016 ECHO Award. Dark Sky Island was nominated for Best New Age Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.
The island of Sark, which the album's title is named after.
Following the release of And Winter Came... (2008), Enya released The Very Best of Enya, her second greatest hits album of her career, in 2009. She then took an extended break from writing and recording new music, and spent her time travelling and bought a new home on the southern coast of France. A period of time away from music was necessary as Aigle Studio, her usual recording studio located in the home of her long time recording partners, arranger and producer Nicky Ryan and his wife, lyricist Roma Ryan, in Killiney, County Dublin, was renovated in 2011, which delayed plans to resume work on a new studio album.
In 2012, after work in the studio was complete, Enya made a start to develop new material for Dark Sky Island, the eighth of her career. Its title was inspired after the recent designation of Sark as the first island to be designated a dark-sky preserve, and a series of poetry books on islands from Roma. "Dark Sky Island" was the first song to be written for the album. Enya described the album as having a "theme of journeys" but is not a concept album like the winter-themed And Winter Came... was. She spoke of the album: "journeys to the island; through a length of a lifetime; throughout history; throughout emotions; and through journeys across great oceans".
"The Humming..." is a song "that muses on the cycle of the universe and how change affects everything". According to Nicky Ryan, the track originated as a short melody that Enya began to hum. He added, "The title refers to the sound of the early universe which is at around forty-seven octaves below the lowest piano key". Nicky revealed that scientific work on compression 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. "So I Could Find My Way" is set in waltz time and composed in the key of D major. Enya described the melody as "very emotional". The song is dedicated to Nicky Ryan's deceased mother Mona and its 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". "Even in the Shadows" features a double bass played by Irish rock and jazz musician Eddie Lee. Lee was a member of Those Nervous Animals from Sligo, Ireland who were label mates, under the Tara Music label, of the Brennan family band Clannad in the 1980s; Enya was a member of Clannad from 1980 to 1982.
There are two songs in the album that feature lyrics in Loxian, a language created by Roma Ryan, for the first time since Amarantine (2005). These songs in particular focus on the "intergalactic theme" and otherworldly and futuristic tales Roma Ryan uses Loxian for, along with the non-Loxian "Astra et Luna". "Echoes In Rain" is in a minor scale, specifically F-sharp minor, and has a "marching rhythm celebrating a journey's end". The song includes a piano-based bridge, similar to Enya's solo piano tracks on her earlier albums. Enya's vocals span two octaves from B2 to 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 an Irish lament with "a sparse, hymnal arrangement". "Sancta Maria" blends synthesizers and classical instrumentation.
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.
Dark Sky Island was released on CD and as a digital download on 20 November 2015. It was released on LP on 18 December 2015.
Two promotional singles from the album were released. "So I Could Find My Way" was released digitally on 30 October 2015. Its music video, released on 6 November, features Enya performing in the Chapel Royal Church in Dublin with a female string ensemble and choir. "The Humming..." was released digitally on 13 November with an accompanying lyric video released the same day.
Dark Sky Island received mostly positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 78, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", based on 8 reviews. In his review for AllMusic, Timothy Monger rated the album four stars out of five. He wrote the album "has all the thematic and sonic hallmarks typical of an Enya release but with significantly more highlights than on her two prior works" and highlights "The Humming" as "one of the strongest tracks she's produced in decades and resembles a dark cousin to 1991's masterwork 'Caribbean Blue'". He summarised the album "does manage to harness some of the power and creativity of Enya's early days and pairs it with both the confidence and shadows of age". In the Evening Standard, John Aizlewood gives the album the same rating, summarising with "magnificent in every sense" with "songs built up with layer upon layer of vocals ... layer upon layer of instrumentation and layer upon layer of luxurious, uplifting, undeniably spiritual warmth".
Siobhan Kane of The Irish Times rated the album four stars out of five, praising Enya's vocal power "that manages to be both frail and strong" on "So I Could Find My Way", and summarised the album as "nourishing and immersive". Brad Nelson in his review for Pitchfork, likened the album to "being embraced by air" and said with "some confidence" that Dark Sky Island was Enya's best album since The Memory of Trees (1995), released almost twenty years prior; he gave a positive review and score of 7.1 out of 10. He praised Enya for "drifting somewhat from her aesthetic" and highlighted "Even in the Shadows" as a prime example and consequently called it "one of the best on the album".
^Brennan, Enya. "Enya On Her First Album In Seven Years". enya.sk. Julia Brucculieri from The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 November 2015. So, when I went back to the studio, about Spring 2012, this was the first inspiration for me. And the first song I wrote was "Dark Sky Island."
^"Czech Albums – Top 100". ČNS IFPI. Note: On the chart page, select 201548 on the field besides the word "Zobrazit", and then click over the word to retrieve the correct chart data. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
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