"Authenticity" by The Foreign Exchange

The Foreign Exchange
Authenticity

The Foreign Exchange Music
2010

Review

Producer Nicolay and MC/Singer Phonte of Little Brother fame are back with another solid Soul music album that pretty much sticks to the groundwork they put on their last release together as "The Foreign Exchange". If you enjoyed "Leave It All Behind" then you are definitely going to want to pick this up. For the Hip-Hop fanatics (and perhaps fans of their debut album "Connected") hoping that this would be a return to their classic debut's mix of 70% Hip-Hop to 30% Soul, I have to say I'm sorry to burst your bubble.

At first glance, you may think that things have changed since the duo's last go round since there is the definite addition of more electronic sounds into the mix as opposed to the straight-up smoothed out Jazz vibe on their last two collaborations. Yet, although the tendency towards more electronic sounds is quite evident on a number of songs - especially those in the beginning of the album - the majority of them are more straightforward Soul.

Phonte and Nicolay still bring it in their respective roles. Phonte is still oh so quotable. Even in Soul-mode as in on "Make Me A Fool":

You got me feeling so unreal and now I'm losing my cool
You make me want to lose myself and then break all the rules
If I ever lose this feeling heaven knows what I do
And I'm not asking you to be an angel
Just don't ever make me a fool

I love that Phonte is able to bring his trademark wit to even his Soul songs - I wonder if a face like your has ever heard a "no" - but that's the thing. With a song of the same length, you are going to get more punchlines per minute with MC Phonte than you will with Percy Miracles Phonte. Finally, you get a verse on it and it's nice:

I'm thinking that you're out of my league
Walking round looking like something right out of my dreams
People saying me and you is like the finest cheerleader going with the dude that got picked last for the team
But desire is a miraculous thing
When the soul get ravenous and all you want is a little bit of happiness

As solid as a record as this is, I think the only really AMAZING (all caps) songs here are "Laughing At Your Plans" and "Don't Wait". Of course, It would be the low-fi, stripped-down and mostly analog songs that I loved most on the album! These songs are such sincere well-constructed Soul (almost Indie Rock) songs.

These songs are more about a feeling...like an extended jam session to communicate a feeling across your speakers. It is almost ambient.

This is the total opposite of what it takes to make a hit. A hit is supposed to be catchy right away and easily digestible. There's not much time to set the mood in a hit. Therefore, I can appreciate the approach taken by The Foreign Exchange on songs like "All Roads" or "Authenticity". On these it's more like, "let it build, take your time" rather than "hey check this out". It's the difference between lingerie and candles and neon and Motley Crue (not that there's anything wrong with either). But while I can appreciate the slow burn, it is this very quality that makes the album "Excellent" as opposed to "Amazing"...I mean, to me you are ALWAYS in the mood for an amazing song, but for an excellent song, you might not always want to hear it because it doesn't grab you right away it has to work harder to get your attention. Part of it is probably my own personal bias too because as much as I can appreciate this sound, it's hard for me to get over how much I loved their more Hip-Hop-heavy debut album. Phonte is a great singer but he's an AMAZING MC. To me, these "Excellent" songs are a few Phonte verses away from being AMAZING.

I love the Soul sounds of the Foreign Exchange, but I think they should consider bringing back some MC'ing to their sound. Just like you wouldn't want to put Bruce Lee in a romantic comedy, let Phonte do some verbal martial arts!

3.909 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. The Last Fall (04:32) 4
2. Authenticity (03:43) 4
3. Eyes to the Sky (01:33) 3
4. All Roads (03:47) 4
5. Fight for Love (03:50) 3
6. Maybe She'll Dream of Me (04:26) 5
7. Don't Wait (feat. Darien Brockington) (03:53) 4
8. Make Me a Fool (feat. Jesse Boykins III & Median) (04:32) 4
9. Everything Must Go (02:03) 4
10. Laughing at Your Plans (feat. Chantae Cann) (03:19) 5
11. This City Ain't the Same Without You (feat. YahZarah) (03:10) 3