17 May 2023
A legendary artist who has captivated audiences around the world for decades – and even become a Gen Z style icon, thanks to the Enyacore TikTok trend – Irish singer Enya has worked up a truly peerless blend of traditional Celtic folk, New Age and ambient music. With eight studio albums to her name, Enya has created a rich and diverse body of work that spans over 30 years. From her self-titled debut album to her latest release, Dark Sky Island, each Enya record showcases the Irish songwriter’s distinct sound and musical vision. Whether you’re a die-hard Enya fan or a newcomer to her music, join us as we rank and review all eight of her studio releases, providing you with a comprehensive guide to the best Enya albums across her incomparable career.
Listen to the best of Enya here, and check out the best Enya albums, below.
8: ‘And Winter Came…’ (2008)
Boasting a beautiful collection of songs that capture the magic and wonder of Christmas, Enya’s 2008 album, And Winter Came…, features the singer’s trademark sound of layered vocals and lush instrumentation, with the addition of holiday-themed lyrics and seasonal motifs. “I’ve always wanted to put together a Christmas album,” Enya said in an interview with CNN. “So I was writing some Christmas carols and what happened was some of the songs started to veer more into winter themes.”
Opening with its hauntingly beautiful title track, And Winter Came… takes listeners on a journey through a snow-filled landscape with songs such as White Is In The Winter Night, My! My! Time Flies! and Trains And Winter Rains. The album also features stunning renditions of some of the best traditional Christmas Carols, including as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Silent Night, delivered in Enya’s signature style. As one of the best Christmas albums of the modern era, And Winter Came… effortlessly evokes feelings of hope and nostalgia, reminding us of the beauty and magic of winter.
Must hear: Trains And Winter Rains
7: ‘Amarantine’ (2005)
A captivating and enchanting record conceived by Enya as a “series of stories”, the Irish songwriter’s sixth album, Amarantine, from 2005, features a mix of lush orchestral arrangements, haunting vocals and atmospheric soundscapes that immediately transports listeners to a mystical world. “It’d be unfair to sort of pick one to be the favourite piece of all, they are very, very close to me,” Enya said about the songs on Amarantine, during an interview conducted in in Killruddery House, in County Wicklow. “All express different emotions and feelings.”
Amarantine’s title track is a standout, its mesmerising chorus and layered vocals showcasing her signature sound. Other noteworthy tracks include It’s In The Rain, If I Could Be Where You Are and Sumiregusa (Wild Violet). Ensuring its status among the best Enya albums, Amarantine was a commercial success; debuting at No.8 on the Billboard 200 after selling more than a million copies in its first month of release, it then went on to win Enya her fourth Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Highlighting Enya’s unique musical vision and creativity, Amarantine continues to captivate listeners with its timeless quality.
Must hear: Amarantine
6: ‘Dark Sky Island’ (2015)
Notable among many unique Enya facts is that she often sings in a fictional language called Loxian, invented by lyricist Roma Ryan. Enya’s eighth album, Dark Sky Island, saw her continue that practice while growing more ambitious with her music, thanks to a breathtaking mix of booming orchestral arrangements and otherworldly vocals. Dark Sky Island’s title track is both ethereal and uplifting, while other highlights, such as Echoes In Rain, So I Could Find My Way and The Loxian Gate, are similarly spellbinding. Inspired by Enya’s travels and her love of nature, Roma Ryan’s lyrics touch on themes of hope, freedom and finding one’s place in the world.
“This album has a theme of journeys,” Enya said in a press release accompanying Dark Sky Island’s release. “Journeys to the island; through the length of a lifetime; through history, through emotions; and journeys across great oceans.” A late-career masterpiece, Dark Sky Island was met with positive reviews from critics and debuted at No.4 on the Billboard 200, making it Enya’s highest-charting album in the US since 2000’s A Day Without Rain. A must-hear among the best Enya albums, it is a truly stunning record that proves how Enya’s musical evolution and artistic vision continues to mature.
Must hear: Echoes In Rain
5: ‘A Day Without Rain’ (2000)
Enya’s fifth album, A Day Without Rain, stands as a notable milestone in her discography. Shifting over 15 million copies worldwide after its release, in November 2000, it is not only Enya’s best-selling work, but it was also the fifth highest-selling album globally in 2001. A Day Without Rain’s soothing melodies and relaxing atmosphere make it the perfect album to unwind to, featuring as it does Enya’s trademark blend of ethereal soundscapes and lushly-arranged pizzicato pop.
“I do think that the abundance of pizzicato on the album was inspired by the pitter-patter of rain,” Enya admitted in an interview with Inside Borders. “We have a large room above the studio, which we use for resting between recordings, and the sound of rain can be heard quite clearly there.” A Day Without Rain’s lead single, Only Time, became an international hit, reaching the Top 10 in several countries, and is widely regarded as one of the best Enya songs. Other highlights include Wild Child, Flora’s Secret and Pilgrim. From a commercial standpoint, A Day Without Rain was an unparalleled triumph, debuting at No.2 on the Billboard 200 and winning Enya her third Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Easily one of the best Enya albums, it long ago cemented her status as one of the most innovative and beloved artists of her generation.
Must hear: Only Time
4: ‘The Memory Of Trees’ (1995)
With a title referring to Irish mythology and how druids considered trees to be the sacred guardians of memory, Enya’s spiritually rich fourth album, The Memory Of Trees, evokes a sense of mysticism and reverence towards nature. “It’s derived from the druids, and they held the trees as very sacred, so they were very important,” Enya said in an interview with Los Angeles-based radio station KSCA 101.9 FM. Reflecting Enya’s deep-rooted connection to her Irish heritage and the spiritual world, The Memory Of Trees’ title track perfectly captures the album’s themes of nature, spirituality and the passage of time.
Elsewhere, other highlights on the album include On My Way Home, Hope Has A Place and the international hit Anywhere Is. Showcasing Enya’s angelic vocals and intricate arrangements, The Memory Of Trees remains a beloved and influential work among the best Enya albums. Debuting at No.5 on the Billboard 200 and winning the singer her second-ever Grammy Award for Best New Age Album, it still stands as a testament to Enya’s artistry and enduring appeal, proving why she stands tall as one of the most influential female musicians in history.
Must hear: Anywhere Is
3: ‘Enya’ (1987)
Compiled from a selection of songs she recorded for the soundtrack to the BBC TV programme The Celts, Enya’s eponymous debut album was released in 1987 and marked the beginning of her successful solo career. Featuring her seminal blend of traditional Irish music, New Age and ambient styles, this album saw Enya forge her signature sound and it has since been heralded as a cult classic.
One of the most significant songs to feature on the record was Boadicea, an instrumental full of ghostly chanting that has gone on to be sampled by numerous hip-hop acts, most notably The Fugees, on their 1996 hit Ready Or Not; Mario Winans, on 2004’s I Don’t Wanna Know; and Metro Boomin, The Weeknd and 21 Savage, on their 2022 hit, Creepin’. Serving as a launching pad for the singer’s entire solo career, not only is this one of the best Enya albums, but it also successfully laid the foundation for the innovative and captivating music that she would create in the years to come.
Must hear: Boadicea
2: ‘Shepherd Moons’ (1991)
Named after two moons orbiting the rings of Saturn, Enya’s third album, Shepherd Moons, is a masterful follow-up to Watermark that solidified the Irish songwriter’s status as one of the most singular talents of her generation. Released in October 1991, Shepherd Moons perfected the sprawling ambient pop sound Enya uses to support Roma Ryan’s cosmic lyrical reference points, while also lyrically delving deeper into thematic explorations of the singer’s Celtic spirituality. With its dreamy and melancholic harmonies, Shepherd Moons gifted the world yet another New Age masterpiece.
“I know there is melancholy inherent in my music,” Enya said in a 1991 interview with Ireland’s Hot Press magazine. “Maybe it’s because I’m Irish, and there is always been a lot of sadness in Irish poetry.” Standout tracks on the album include Caribbean Blue, Shepherd Moons, Book Of Days and Lothlórien, the latter of which was inspired by JRR Tolkien’s fantasy saga, The Lord Of The Rings. The album was a commercial and critical success, debuting at No.17 on the Billboard 200 and winning Enya her first Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Undoubtedly helping to expand her fanbase wider than ever before, Shepherd Moons demonstrated why Enya truly deserves her crown as the “Queen Of New Age Pop”.
Must hear: Caribbean Blue
1: ‘Watermark’ (1988)
Released in September 1988, Enya’s second album, Watermark, marked a significant turning point in the singer’s career that saw her make waves on the pop charts for the very first time. The album’s lead single, Orinoco Flow, became an international hit that peaked at No.1 in the UK, helping the record sell over 15 million copies worldwide. Expanding her sonic palette further to encompass ambient soundscapes, New Age choral arrangements and traditional Irish folk, Watermark proved to be both a commercial and a critical success.
On enchanting songs such as Storms In Africa and Cursum Perficio, Roma Ryan’s lyrics evoked timeless themes that felt like ripples of history washing up on present-day shores. “It has in its theme searching, longing, of reaching out for an answer,” Enya said of the album in a 2000 interview. “The ocean is a central image. It is the symbolism of a great journey, which is the way I would describe this album.” As a work of timeless beauty that peaked at No.25 on the Billboard 200, it’s easy to see why Watermark elevated Enya into the upper echelons of New Age pop stardom, and it more than deserves its place at the top of our list of the best Enya albums.
Must hear: Orinoco Flow