Album #15: “Watermark” — Enya (1988)
If all goes according to plan, I’ll be catching Julianna Barwick tonight at the Carrack. Moody and ethereal, her music has been described as Enya for the Indie crowd.
Enya herself has been an ambient darling since her breakthru album “Watermark” in 1988. It’s understandable people might be wary of the record, thanks to the overexposure of its big hit, the overwrought “Orinoco Flow,” but this would be a mistake, like avoiding Led Zep IV because of “Stairway to Heaven.” From the beautiful and haunting opening title track to the Irish lament “Na Laetha Geal M’óige” (Days of My Youth) that closes out the record, this is a perfect album for the dead of winter. “Watermark” is all the more impressive because Enya plays all the instruments and sings all the tracks herself, looping vocals to create a chorus of backup singers from her solitary voice.
February, Enya and looping go back a quarter century for me as well. At the time, I had one of those boom boxes that would continuously play a cassette tape, flipping from one side to the other automatically when it reached the end. If you didn’t hit stop, an album would repeat forever. I was in my first apartment, soon after my roommate had left to move in with his girlfriend. I’d also recently heard from my ex-girlfriend, which put me right back in the metaphysical crater where she’d left me. Alone, broke, and feeling a wee bit sorry for myself one bitterly cold evening, I put on “Watermark” and plopped down on the couch to read. I lost track, but sometime after hearing the click of the cassette flipping over for probably the dozenth time, I finally found the energy to get up and eject the tape. By then, Enya and her moody, ethereal voice were forever burned into my head.