Hard lessons

Let’s get the bias disclosure out of the way.

My first encounter with Lamya was in New York City, Feb. 13, 1993. Duran Duran played a show three weeks before the release of its second self-titled album, a.k.a “The Wedding Album”.

What she did to “Come Undone” that night wasn’t pretty.

Six months later, a flame war erupted on what was then the only Internet mailing list dedicated to Duran Duran, and Lamya was given the nickname, “Lame-ya”.

So when articles started popping up a few weeks ago about Lamya’s debut album, Learning From Falling, the Duranie in me shuddered. Not her!

But hey — nine years? That’s enough time for a voice to mature, right? Lamya was all of 19 at the time she took the stage with Simon Le Bon that fateful February night.

Well, there’s some good news and some bad news.

As a singer, Lamya is still pretty average. Her raspy, nasal vox doesn’t possess the kind of Billie Holiday-from-the-grave vibe it’s meant to evoke. Compared to Erykah Badu or Lina, Lamya hardly ranks.

But nine years has done Lamya some good. She knows she’s not Mariah Carrey, and the shrill attempt she made on “Come Undone” nine years ago isn’t even part of the solution set.

If anything, Lamya shores up her shortcomings as a singer by wrapping herself up in some rather intriguing music.

Some writers have already lumped Lamya with R&B boundary blurrers India.Arie and Res, and on some level, they’re right. Lamya’s music has enough flexibility to include orchestral touches, acoustic guitars, Indian sitars, even a bubbling electronica beat here and there.

At first, Learning From Falling doesn’t really make much of an impression. It’s not nearly as distinctive as either India.Arie or Res, but over time, the album’s identity reveals itself.

“The Woman Who” does a nice job juggling classical guitars, a string quartet, synthesizer effects and an R&B beat. “Never Enough” manages to make a dance beat, lush strings and rock guitars feel congruous.

Nelle Hopper can’t seem to get over his work on Björk’s “Human Behavior”, employing a timpani once again as a hook, while “Pink Moon” could have been sung by any number of alt-country singer-songwriters.

Once Learning From Falling starts embedding itself into your subconscious, it’s hard to dismiss Lamya for her earlier transgressions.

She may not be as revelatory as other artists in this so-called neo-soul category, but she does hold her own well enough.