The first is the sad case of hippie chick diva Lamya. I first became aware of the African chantuese, raised in Sheffield, when she sang backup for Duran Duran on their excellent 1994 Unplugged. She caught my ear when she did a mindmelting solo on the beautiful ballad Come Undone. I never forgot her and hunted high and low for that song for years.
In July of 2002, she suddenly reappeared as a solo artist (or maybe solo will o'the wisp?) with some very big money behind her thanks to Clive Davis and his newly formed J Records. Her debut album, Learning From Falling, was produced by no less than Nellee Hooper (famous for his work with Bjork and Massive Attack), Mark Ronson, and David Kahne, among others. Clive even hired Jean Baptiste Mondino to shoot her album cover (see pics on this post). Though imperfect, Learning should have sold much more than it did and quickly careened into cutout bins.
Among the highlights were opener Empires, a sonic boom of a song with nutty lyrics about wanting "men to match my mountains." Tittyfuck ode or metaphorical delight? Doesn't matter, because you gotta love a song that has such awesome rolling timpani. Never Enough is a great fuck-you pop/rock track with a cutting lyric about living with an addict: "Well, that's my life / That you're throwing / Down the back of your throat / Hey, and those are my dreams / Heading for an overdose."
The record was incredibly polished for a first album, as if she had been planning it her whole life. Black Mona Lisa is my favorite: a granola-feminista anthem, especially in its remixed form at the end of the CD. Referencing the Nat King Cole classic in the chorus, there was a bit that leapt out at me each time I listened: "I used to be a connoisseur / Of hate, self hate, paternal hate." Diva's been in therapy! I love it when she sings, "I am an island / A little freak of melancholy."
Never's Such a Long Time is a beautiful midtempo with a lyric that appears to be sung to suddenly dead rock star she was fucking. Hmmm. You know these background girls. Who was it!? I love the geeky lyric: "Why didn't I just call one day / To just to say / Hey, I think you're such a legend?" Yeah, why not Lamya? She even had the cajones to cover Nick Drake's Pink Moon without slaughtering it.
Buy this CD cheap from Amazon. You have nothing to lose! There's something slightly kitschy about this record, but she really is quite accomplished - I wish she'd do more music. If you run into sweet Lamya on the streets of London, give her a kiss for me.
thanks to Paul Soychak for the Duran WMA file!