Thursday, October 28, 2010

Album Review: The Foreign Exchange--------AUTHENTICITY

After Leave It All Behind, the second dynamic offering from The Foreign Exchange, what could Nicolay and Phonte, the masterminds behind the F.E. sound, possibly offer the listeners? Authenticity is the answer, both literally and figuratively. Authenticity describes the caliber of the music; Authenticity is the aptly named title of this third installment in The Foreign Exchange catalog. I’ve been anticipating this release for months, ever since the album title was released via earlier in the year. I am a very huge fan of the collective, because the music that I’ve heard, from not only Nicolay and Phonte, but extended family YahZarah, ZO!, and Darien Brockington, has struck a chord sonically and emotionally. For this album, do I get the same connection, so to speak?

The album starts with the signature opening listeners have come to expect from The Foreign Exchange. The trademark chime melts into the first track, “The Last Fall”. This song, from a musical standpoint, is reminiscent of the aural sounds that Nicolay has employed on recent releases. With Phonte laying the lyrical groundwork on this track, it’s a good way to usher in fall, real and imagined. “Authenticity” has a certain Prince-like feel in the construction of the music. Serving as the title track, this song brings up the notion of love as reality or fantasy. “She wants me to fill her need, she begs for authenticity, you don’t want truth from me, you just want what you want” sums up thematically where Phonte Coleman was taking us on this lyrical voyage.

Next on the Authenticity agenda is “Eyes To The Sky”, a somewhat melancholy cut about the musings of love. The piano-driven track compliments the lyrical content very well on this song.Phonte is very poignant in his songwriting, touching on the subject of love with an introspective flair. Unfortunately, “Eyes To The Sky” is a relatively short song, chiming in at 1 minute and 32 seconds. “All Roads”, the fourth song on the disc, showcases the beautiful background vocals of YahZarah intertwined with Phonte’s crooning. This song is reminiscent of Leave It All Behind in structure and sound. On “Fight For Love”, the lyrics identify a person no longer willing to endure the trials and tribulations of loving another. “Either it ain’t or it is, it either ain’t or it is” sums up “Fight For Love” in a nutshell. ZO! contributes on the piano, Fender Rhodes, and synth with this song.

The first song on Authenticity that enlists the rhyming talents of Phontigallo is “Maybe She’ll Dream Of Me”, a silky track that has a laid-back demeanor suited for a neo-soul/lounge environment. Darien Brockington joins Phonte on “Don’t Wait”, blending his smooth voice with a synth and drum machine-driven track. “Make Me A Fool”, a collaboration with Jesse Boykins III, covers familiar ground with the topic of love, yet puts a spin on the topic with Justus League and F.E. affiliate Median providing the lyrical support. Sonically, this is my favorite song on the album.

Another song that has a similar feel to the material on Leave It All Behind is “Everything Must Go”, a mid-tempo track that is very reflective and contemplative in nature. “Laughing At Your Plans” is a feel-good song in sound, but in theme discusses the ending, whatever that ending may be. The last song on the album, “This City Ain’t The Same Without You”, features the chocolate-hued songstress YahZarah vocally expressing how the city is different without her love. It’s a fitting way to close an album that sounds more like a continuous song than separate cuts.

All in all, Authenticity is one of the best offerings for 2010. However, I’m a little spoiled by the nearly flawless nature of Leave It All Behind., the previous release from Phonte, Nicolay, and crew. It is not fair to compare this album to Leave It All Behind, or Connected, for that matter, because Authenticity is more a natural progression than a continuation of those albums. Phonte, Nicolay, and The Foreign Exchange family have constructed an album that will be in constant rotation not only this fall, but going into the winter and beyond. It fits nicely within the catalog of my favorite collective, The Foreign Exchange Music Group. I strongly recommend listeners, both familiar and foreign, to pick up this album, and revisit previous releases to get the full scope of Nicolay and Phonte as The Foreign Exchange.


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