It sounds strange, but Enya may be the world's best known exponent of the do-it-yourself aesthetic normally associated with punk. With few exceptions, the Irish chanteuse sings and plays all of the instruments on her albums herself, and she keeps counsel with only a small coterie of friends, most notably Roma and Nicky Ryan, her lyricist and producer-arranger.
Then, too, she's mostly an enigma. Having cut loose from Clannad, her family's band, in the early '80s, she seldom does interviews, eschews live performances and stays out of the spotlight more than just about anyone whose previous album (in her case, 2000's "A Day Without Rain") sold 13 million copies. There are dissimilarities, of course. Enya isn't selling her CDs from the trunk of her car; she records for Time Warner.
On "Amarantine," Roma Ryan's lyrics take a back seat to the ethereal sound and mood of the songs. In part, that's because they're sometimes sung in another tongue. ("Sumiregusa" is in Japanese, while "Less Than a Pearl," "The River Sings" and "Water Shows the Hidden Heart" are in Loxian, a language invented by Ryan.) That's just as well, though, because, her English lyrics are often banal -- stuff about listening to the rain (which is really the sky crying, you know) and how love opens your heart.
What's left is the music's epic sweep and the crystalline beauty of Enya's voice. Neither is insubstantial, nor particularly arresting, on "Amarantine." As she has on previous efforts, Enya succeeds here in crafting the perfect soundtrack to an evening by the fire with a thick book and a selection of General Foods International Coffees.
-- Daniel Durchholz
THE GREAT DIVIDE
Singer Scott Stapp's release of his solo debut, "The Great Divide," barely a year after Creed's highly publicized breakup seems to solidify his assertion that his former band will not reunite. Guitar-driven and packed full of Stapp's trademark Christian-influenced lyrics, "Divide" sounds for the most part like a new version of Creed, and not surprisingly so: Why alter the style that sold millions of records and made Creed one of the biggest rock acts of the late 1990s?
"Divide" doesn't start out as radio-friendly Creed Junior, though: The screeching guitars, pounding drums and screaming vocals of album-opener "Reach Out" hint at a more aggressive approach. But it doesn't take long for "Divide" to settle into a more familiar sound. "Hard Way" follows Creed's formula of quieter verses paired with impassioned choruses, all delivered with Stapp's over-serious vocals. The title track could be the sequel to Creed's single "Higher," both sonically and lyrically, with Stapp's religious words ("You became my reason to survive the great divide / You set me free") linked to a blaring, dramatic guitar riff.
Such Christian lyrics frame "Divide" as a spiritual journey, with Stapp's struggle to make the right choices ("Justify") leading him to a triumphant proclamation of faith ("You Will Soar"). The album-closing ballad "Broken" pairs Stapp's confessional lyrics ("Yes I know what it feels like / to be broken and used / scared and confused") with the uplifting vocals of a backing choir to deliver one of the more overtly religious sounds of Stapp's career.
-- Catherine P. Lewis