Friday, September 25, 2009

Orla Fallon- "Distant Shore"

Even though I can't say I have a favorite Celtic Woman, the departure of Meav and Orla over the past few years have changed the group for me, especially when I saw neither of them at Atlanta earlier this year. I grew very excited about Orla's solo CD and bought the pre-ordered, autographed copy. I think I frightened my poor sister when I snatched it from her hands when it arrived yesterday, but I was so looking forward to it.

" Who Knows" is a very pretty soft piece, as is "Distant Shore." I love the up-beat song "Dancing in the Moonlight," which is a sure favorite. "My Land" is lovely, especially with the choir in the background. "Shooting Star" is another favorite, as are "Bean an Ti," "Always There" (which is written by Brendan Graham and Secret Garden who ironically wrote the original "You Raise Me Up" that has become Celtic Woman's theme song), "Voices on the Wind," and "Eleanor Plunkett."

Even though the entire album is lovely, I was slightly disappointed at its more pop-ish sounds. Orla and Meav, to me, were the most Irish out of the other Celtic Woman (past and present), and their solo albums beautifully capture that. This album is less Irish in that only two traditional songs are played here and Gaelic is only sung on one song. Another thing that I missed the sound of was Orla's harp. I hear it a couple of times on the album, but the piano is more predominant, which was a bit disappointing because Orla and her harp go so beautifully together. I also wished that I could have heard the more darker side of Orla's voice, the side that interpreted "Harry's Game" and "Newgrange" so well. Don't get me wrong. I love this album, as it was well-worth it, but I do miss the sound of her trademark harp and her interpretations of traditional Irish songs.

If you are an Orla fan, I highly recommend this album. I give it four and a half stars out five.

Now if Meav will release, a new album, then life will be good :D

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hold Your Horses

In reality, modern science makes me laugh. With all of its assumptions and leaping to conclusions, it's frankly sometimes embarrassing. Yesterday I read about how now they've found proof that there's water on the moon: sensors picked up a chemical bonding of hydrogen and oxygen. I'm no chemist, but I did study some in a short breeze into organic chemistry last fall in physical science. A chemical bonding of hydrogen and oxygen doesn't mean there's water; there are many other combinations made up of those two elements. Anyway, reading that yesterday just made me crack up.

For you music lovers, stay tuned for an upcoming CD review. I received my Orla Fallon CD "Distant Shore" today and hope to post a review in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Aura of Mystery

Ok, enough of the music rants. I really should think of more good topics besides either CD reviews or pointing out potential errors in a journalist's work. I've not been in much of a research/ geeking-out mood, so maybe that's why. Anyway, before philosophy class at college this morning, there was a rather hilarious discussion that led to me thinking of a more serious topic.

I'm a bit of a Lord of the Rings geek (I think anyone who reads The Silmarillion, has a Lord of the Rings dictionary, and a series of Lord of the Rings maps is :) ). I've read the trilogy a few times and own the trilogy in movie form. I'm currently making slow progress in re-reading the trilogy again after a few years, and I realized how much deeper and better the books are. I mean, no surprise there as movies rarely capture a book very well (except for Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibility"). But in reading, I discovered something in the trilogy that I have yet to see in other forms of writing: an aura of mystery.

In "Fellowship of the Ring" (the book, mind you) the four hobbits make their journey across the Shire, through the Old Forest, to Bree, and then to Rivendell. On the course of their long trip, the four (later joined by Aragorn) go through very dark places, places with things that they can't explain. Take, for example, the journey through the Old Forest. The hobbits have all heard legends of the forest being a dark place with angry, living trees and such. Not only do these stories make the four slightly afraid as they travel, but strange occurances like the disappearing of the path and the trees moving so that the hobbits head straight for the strangest part of the forest keep them on their toes. But Tolkien doesn't explain fully why the trees move; as far as I remember, we don't learn of the ents until "Two Towers" and then it makes sense. It is this sense of mystery, the sense of "the hobbits and the reader don't know what's going on" that I found in reading. In a few places in the trilogy, the way Tolkien writes, he speaks of mysterious places, things that most people don't know or don't find an explanation for, like the watcher in the lake outside of Moria or Tom Bombadil. It gives me the sense of a vast fantasy world filled with mystery, a world much like our own where we can't explain everything and probably never will. This, I think, gives Middle Earth, a sense of being realistic and I think makes the story more real and more captivating in a sense.

I've yet to find the same aura of mystery in other fantasy stories. In "Cry of the Icemark," there is an instance of living trees (similar yet dissimilar to Tolkien's ents) that were rumored not to be real, but that sense of mystery is lost when the author explains what they really are. The Inheritance Cycle completely lacks any sense of not knowing what things are, probably because his elves are a bunch of rational know-it-alls. The Binding of the Blade series also lacks this same sense. In this way, to me, they feel a bit flat, a bit lacking in their worlds, making them sterile and as if everything has a rational explanation for it. Completely unrealistic, as there is so much to discover about our own planet and beyond that I don't think we can say we understand the universe. Tolkien, to me, captures this realistic mystery and brilliantly crafts it into his story, making it truly a great one.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who's Lying?

I know I've ranted about Enya vs. Clannad and the different stories before, but this one is a bit much. This interview was done last year (2008) to promote Enya's Christmas album "And Winter Came." The following is a quote from the interview, though I'm not sure if Ryan or Enya herself gave out the information.

" The split [referring to Enya's departure from Clannad in 1982 with their producer Nicky Ryan and her supposed separation from her family] was acrimonius... but they didn't speak for years, and only recently does she now see her nieces and nephews."

(The full interview can be found at the following link: )

Now check out this picture (I found it on Clannad/ Moya Brennan fansite Northern Skyline, so it is copyrighted to them and not to me):

Judging from the picture with Moya Brennan in the corner with her husband Tim and their daughter Aisling, this was taken probably in 1992 or maybe 1993 (depends on when Aisling was born). Now look in the central back of the picture. Unless my eyes are wrong, that looks like Enya sitting behind Ciaran and her parents. Now look at this next picture (same website, so does not belong to me):

All five of the Brennan sisters are here in the picture, and it certainly doesn't look recent (judging from Moya's hair color and style); it was probably taken between 1998 and 2002.

"Acrimonius" family split? Both pictures look happy with no tension or anything of the sort. If the split was that bad, then I doubt Enya would be in family pictures or sing at her brother's wedding.

The point? Either the writer of this article severely twisted the information given in the interview, or he was given faulty information. I'm not sure which one is true at the moment (though I have my own suspicions that I'm not going to say here), but all I know is that that article, which has provided much of Enya's pre-Watermark biography and her childhood information for wikipedia, is not telling the full truth here. I'm not a journalist and have no real desire to be, but I do know (based on college experience) that when doing research for an article, do a lot of research and not just rely on one source because that one source could be wrong.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Amarantine" by Enya

In trying to think of a good Celtic album to critique, I next decided to do Enya's "Amarantine." I've been listening to it and mulling over it, so I think I know how this will go. The following is only my opinion, so no one leap all over me for this, please. Got that? Good. Now on to the review.

" Less than a Pearl"- this opening to the album is sung in Enya and Roma Ryan's imaginary language Loxian (which is pretty much a mixture of five or more languages with no real structure). Despite the oddness of this language, it doesn't sound too much different from her vocalizations/ mouth music that she's done in earlier songs like "The Celts" or "The Longships." It's a pretty song, but the synthesizer and percussion could have been toned down a bit.

" Amarantine"- I'd rank this song as being up there with The Corrs' "Irresistable." It's not well-written, but it's catchy... until you listen to it about five times and then realize how much you dislike it. Not one of Enya's best romantic songs.

" It's in the Rain"- after the happy tone of "Amarantine," we move more to a sad pop sound. The synthezier makes background sounds like rain (though it doesn't sound as good as when it did on "Silver Rain" from another album). The song is meant to be sad, but it doesn't come across to me that way, not like "Evacuee" or even "Only Time" are.

" If I Could Be Where You Are"- this song is malancholy, but it is not the same tone seen in Enya's earlier works (i.e. her pre- "Memory of Trees" albums). There is minimal layering in this song, which works fine for the tone, but her voice is a bit louder than it usually is in her sadder pieces like "Evacuee" and "Exile."

" The River Sings"- and Loxian returns to the forefront again. One professional review compared this song to "Ebudae," but I completely disagree with him. This song uses a lot of layering, heavy percussion, and other artifical sounds, and thus in the end, while the language sounds cool and the song like something out of a sci-fi movie like "Dune," it is just one disorganized mess that on occasion almost drowns out Enya's voice for the sake of sounding electronic.

" Long Long Journey"- this is one of my favorite songs. It is in the vein of "On My Home" in regards to lyrical content, except it is sadder, as if it will be a long way home (makes me wonder if there is hidden meaning underneath regarding her seemingly horrendous break with her family but only if that story is true). The layering and electronic sounds don't drown out her voice and work perfectly together. I think, in my opinion, it is one of the better songs on this album.

" Sumiregusa"- Enya, having sung only in Loxian and English so far on the album, switches gears to sing in Japanese. There are a few parts, which I can't describe here for a lack of words, almost sound, well, odd... as if she's trying to make an imitation of Japanese music, but it comes across as an echo and sounds a bit out-of-place and not really like Enya.

" Someone Said Goodbye"- Roma must have been having a bad day or something like that because the lyrics here are just horrible and completely lacking the charm and beauty of her earlier works. The electronics are loud and almost drown Enya's voice here. It's not that bad of a song, but the lyrics pretty much ruined it for me.

" A Moment Lost"- the theme of this album, if there is one, is "love, the good parts and the bad parts." The song is not one of my favorites, but thankfully it relies more on the voice and not the synthesizer.

" Drifting"- the only instrumental of the album. Instead of a lovely piece on her acoustic piano, this relies on the sythesizer. It is not as well-done as pieces like "Shepherd Moons" and "Watermark." To an extent, the tune reminds me of "Inama Nushif," the beautiful Enya-esque piece from the "Children of Dune" soundtrack.

" Amid the Falling Snow"- another one of my favorites and one that a personally think is one of the best ones on the album. I think it could have been better if the percussion was softer and not as predominant, letting us focus on her voice completely, as a few times it comes close to drowning her out. But, that being said, I still enjoy this song a lot.

" Water Shows the Hidden Heart"- the album ends as it began: being sung in Loxian. After the mess of "The River Sings," this one is much more subdued and more organized. The tone reminds me of "Smaointe." I think it is one of the best songs on the album, not covering up her voice but focusing on that aspect of her talent.

I've noticed, listening back to Enya's earlier works up to present day, her works have declined in quality and beauty. I think this is largely due to the overuse of the synthesizer and bringing it to the forefront instead of letting it do its quiet yet nonetheless powerful work in the background. In the past, Enya's soft voice was in the front but had a quiet power; here, the music is too loud, lacking its original beauty. I think also, maybe, the quality of the lyrics are declining, and it is especially evident on this album. This album seems to have polarized Enya's fans on its quality, but it's not too horrible, though it's not one of her best ones. I think she should return to her "acoustic" roots seen on her early albums and stay there. Or, else, hire a new producer and lyricist and an actual band instead of one instrument doing everything.

I give the album two stars out of five.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What I Miss

I was listening to Celtic Woman's version of "Somewhere" the other day, and I was struck by its beauty and how the individual, unique voices all blended together perfectly. I then listened (i.e. watched) to their recent version of "Danny Boy" but did not catch that same power. I think that the reason "Somewhere" is so special and, to me, is the defining point of Celtic Woman is because of the different voices. You have Meav's strong soprano, Chloe's youthful soprano, Lisa's strong alto, and then Orla's softer, darker alto. No voice here sounds alike, and that is why it is so beautiful. "Danny Boy," on the other hand, I couldn't tell the difference between Lynn and Alex unless the screen was showing who was singing. There were no powerhouse voices like Meav's on there, and the piece just sounded flat and rather boring with none of the complex harmonies seen in "Somewhere." I think that's one reason that I'm finding myself leaning more and more towards the old Celtic Woman: the unique styles and voices of the singers. Meav sang largely traditional pieces, Orla did traditional and Clannad, Chloe sang children's songs and Sarah Brightman, and Lisa did more pop, New Age pieces. These different styles all came together that one night in 2004, and they blended perfectly together, giving each singer a chance to be unique. I did not see that "magic," as it were, last March. The songs all blended together, just like they did on "Danny Boy," lacking their power and the uniqueness of "Somewhere," as Lynn is a classically trained singer though is more modern Irish and Alex is a theater performer just like Lisa. I guess that's what I miss about Celtic Woman the most, the different styles, different vocal backgrounds, and different voices blending together into a lovely unified whole.