Moya Brennan – Two Horizons (2003)

th_05Moya Brennan (aka Máire Brennan) is one of my absolute favorite artists. She rose to fame as the main vocalist of Irish band Clannad, which began recording in 1973, and released her first solo album in 1992. Moya’s solo work has been described as ‘adult contemporary,’ ‘new age,’ ‘Celtic pop,’ and more recently ‘adult Christian contemporary.’ I personally don’t normally go for music that falls into that last category (I don’t like music that preaches at me!) but luckily Moya has a magic touch when it comes to lyrics and manages to keep her more overtly Christian-influenced tracks from becoming sermons.

I also don’t think that her music is very new age-y at all. To me, ‘new age’ implies flaky airs about fairies and forests with tinkling wind chimes and flutes. If I were to categorize Moya’s music myself, I would think my own made-up label of ‘adult Celtic pop with a bit o’ religion’ suits her quite well.

Because Moya happens to be Enya’s sister, there are bound to be comparisons between the two. I was an Enya fan before I listened to Moya, and after having listened to both for years now, I honestly think Moya and Enya have entirely different ‘sounds.’ For one thing, most of Enya’s work is piano and synth-based. Moya has her own backing band and is a harpist herself. Of course if you’re looking for similarities to Enya’s music in Moya’s solo work (because that seems to be the way people see it, not the other way around), you’ll probably find it, as there’s no doubt that their music pretty much fits into the same category (sans the religious bit in Enya’s case). To put it another way, their theory may be similar, but the way they practice – you can definitely hear a difference.

fiercd07_lgeMy favorite Moya album is Two Horizons. It’s just wonderful and so lushly produced; it’s more like an experience than simply something you listen to! The album tells a story: Moya meets a stranger who tells her she has been chosen to find the lost harp of Tara. This harp had been played once in a peaceful time and Moya is to play it once again, so that, as Moya said in an interview, ‘maybe it would bring back that peace that we so longed for within ourselves or within the world that we live in or even in Ireland itself.’

In that same interview, Moya described the recording of Two Horizons as being like painting a picture, all full of colors and shades. That’s a perfect way to think of the album, really – a bit of a work of art! The songs have electronic touches and those classic Irish flourishes that Moya does so well. Moya deftly mixes the traditional with the modern and comes up with a beautiful, almost ethereal, product.

Make sure to visit her official web site to hear her thoughts on the album and track-by-track commentary. Well worth a listen!

Sandra – The Wheel Of Time (2002)

untitledSandra, originally from Germany, is a popular singer/songwriter/entertainer in Europe. Her professional career began in 1976 (credited as ‘Sandra Ann’) at age 14 with the release of her first single, ‘Andy mein Freund.’ After leading the German disco group Arabesque from 1979 to 1984, Sandra struck out on her own (aided by Michael Cretu) and found solo fame with ‘Maria Magdalena’, from her chart-topping debut album The Long Play (1985). Since then, Sandra’s many hit singles and albums have helped to build a loyal fanbase for this excellent artist.

Wikipedia has this to say about The Wheel of Time:

Sandra’s first studio album in seven years came with The Wheel of Time in 2002, reaching number eight on the German album charts. The first single “Forever” had moderate success… Although some criticised the fact that The Wheel of Time contained no less than four cover versions of 80s songs, including the second single release “Such a Shame” by Talk Talk, the album was received well by her fans… However, The Wheel of Time faded away quickly.

The album really shouldn’t have, as Wikipedia so eloquently says, faded away so quickly. I think this is Sandra’s most sophisticated, mature album to date. (Her most recent release, The Art of Love, is great, but just doesn’t seem to have the same freshness as The Wheel of Time.)
sandrawheelProduced by Enigma collaborator Jens Gad and Enigma mastermind Michael Cretu, the album has wonderful, atmospheric production and is chock full of chilled beats and delicate synths. At times the songs venture into trance, dance, and even techno/electro areas – ‘Forgive Me’ has a drum ‘n’ bass-style breakbeat and bassline and ‘Such A Shame’ features a mid-tempo trance drumbeat and house piano touches.

Every song is great – I never skip a track when I listen to this album. My favorite songs are ‘Forgive Me,’ ‘Footprints,’ ‘Perfect Touch,’ ‘Such A Shame,’ and ‘Free Love.’ (OK, so that’s like half of the album. They’re really cool songs, though!) Check this album out – you won’t be disappointed! :)

Kate Bush – The Dreaming (1982)

untitledIn her own words…

“I think it needs two or three listenings. What I wanted to do throughout the album was almost to bury things.” (1982)

“I’d like them to sit there with the lyrics in front of them and the record turned up really loud giving themselves to it.” (1982)

“I wanted it to be a long-lasting album, because my favourite records are the ones that grow on you – that you play lots of times because each time you hear something different.” (1982)

The Dreaming was a decisive album for me. I hadn’t recorded in a very long time until I undertook it, and that was the first time that I’d had such liberty. It was intoxicating and frightening at the same time. I could fail at everything and ruin my career at one fell swoop. All this energy, my frustrations, my fears, my wish to succeed, all that went into the record.” (1985)

I think it’s extremely sophisticated.
“Do you? Sophisticated? Well, I’d rather you say that than turdlike.” (1982)

(Source of quotes)

KATE BUSH: Kate Bush is, quite frankly, a genius. There’s a great article on Wikipedia about her, but really, all you need to know is that she’s absolutely brilliant.

tdMY THOUGHTS: The Dreaming is my favorite album by Kate. It’s just… amazing. It’s the kind of album that you get lost in, that makes you lose track of time. When the final track concludes, you feel sad that the experience is over.

This album was and still is seen as her “difficult” album – “The Dreaming was my ‘She’s gone mad’ album, my ‘She’s not commercial any more’ album,” Kate said in 1993. It is the lowest-selling album of her discography to date (although it did hit #3 on the UK albums chart). What this shows, quite conclusively, is that the general music-buying public are very very silly indeed.

Truly meaningful songs inspire an emotional response and this album’s tracks do so in a variety of ways with penetrating lyrics, poignant vocals, and rich, intense production. The subject matter ricochets from the pursuit of knowledge to glimpses of God to fighting in Vietnam to Irish smugglers to… This album may not be easily accessible – for some listeners, it may be hard to “get” – but then the most satisfying music, in my opinion, has many levels and can’t really be comprehended and appreciated with just one listen.

There is no less-than-excellent track here. Seriously. I never skip a track when I listen to this album. I urge you to check out the album – you won’t be sorry. :)

Buy The Dreaming @ Amazon.com