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Amarantine ()

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Second only to U2 as the most successful Irish recording artist of all time, Enya has built an empire out of multi-tracking her beautiful voice over the same keyboard patches that appeared on her post-Clannad debut since 1987. It's an empire that has progressed at a slow burn, peaking in 2000 and 2001 with her chart-topping ballad and unofficial post-September 11th anthem, "Only Time." Amarantine, Enya's first full-length album in five years, builds on her reputation as the world's premier purveyor of audio comfort food, providing another collection of mini-soundtracks that are often as awkward in their earnestness as they are breathtaking in their production. Boasting 12 new songs that retain the tapestry of sound that is her trademark, while stealthily stripping it of some of its excess, Enya has managed to both repeat herself and move forward without losing anything in the translation. Besides the swirling, "Ebudae"-esque "The River Sings," Enya, lyricist Roma Ryan, and producer Nicky Ryan have crafted the most subtle record of their careers, a move that may alienate some Watermark-era purists. Standout tracks like "Long, Long Journey," "Water Shows the Hidden Heart," and the gorgeous -- but lyrically embarrassing -- title cut show a newfound understanding of the simple power of Enya's voice, resulting in an intimacy that's eluded previous releases. While Amarantine will do nothing to win over the wrongly pegged new age artist's many detractors, longtime fans will find enough moments of serendipitous pleasure to hold them over for another five years. ~ James Christopher Monger, Rovi Hide synopsis

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