The Foreign Exchange – Authenticity [Review]

By this point, the Internet and iTunes are a buzz with Authenticity, the 3rd full length album from the duo of Phonte and Nicolay. It’s hard to follow up a Grammy nominated album as well as going from a relatively small group of fans to a more mainstream and widespread audience. So how does the group do and what do we get? Let’s find out…

1. The Last Fall
Queue that familiar FE sound, the album starts with a nice sonic build up of a beat that is laced with Phonte’s vocals. The first thing I notice is that Tigallo sounds as if he’s really been working on his singing. His vocals are really smooth and refined, it’s a very noticeable difference. The tempo changes somewhere around the 1:26 mark to a much more upbeat sound than it initially started off. Lyrically, the song is about that last heartbreak and about how you sound fresh after that break up and vow not to fall in love again.

There is a mood and sound to this album that give it a very throwback sound. It’s early so I’ll leave it at that for now. I love the hook on this song “She wants me to fill her needs / she begs for authenticity / you don’t want truth from me / you just want what you want”. Phonte wrote a gem with this song. “You ask me for the whole truth, but for that you’re not prepared”. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I’m really big on relationships in music. Not just in the traditional sense, but how relatable the material is as well as how the lyrics relate to the track, the voice to the instruments, etc. This song is extremely relatable because it’s simple truth. Most of us can remember a relationship like the one Phonte is singing about on this song.

3. Eyes to the Sky
Are you feeling emotional? This is your song then. Well, it’s not a full out song, it’s more like a musical expression or interlude. It’s short but amazing to say the least. I wish they would have done more with this one and made it longer.

4. All Roads
One of the things that I really love about Nicolay’s music is the seamless transitions. He does a fantastic job of making albums feel like jam sessions. “All Roads” pretty much confirms the vibe I get from this album. This is definitely a different sound than what’s out today, but it’s a familiar sound, sort of an updated late 80′s sound. The piano and drum work on this one remind me of “Take On Me” for some reason. As a matter of fact, the song sounds like it would fit in perfectly in one of those 80′s cult classic love films like “Pretty In Pink”.

5. Fight For Love
The emphasis on this song is the extensive and beautiful keys. The track is great, don’t get me wrong, but the piano play on this one is really the star. Phonte refuses to be outdone as he quips “I don’t wanna be a soldier anymore / because the war never ends / and no one ever wins / I don’t understand why we should fight for love / either ain’t or it is”. The song trails off with some synthesized keys that blend well with the track. This is one of my favorite songs on the album.

6. Maybe She’ll Dream of Me
This is by far my favorite song on the album. I love everything about it from the snare drums to the disco throwback shooting sound that makes an appearance. The words on this song are like poetry. “Wondering if, a face that wears a smile like yours, has ever heard a no before such a beauty and a blessing, and if no one else will tell it, I will, I will. Wondering if a man like me can swallow his pride, would you stay by me and stand by my side?…When she lays down at night, I wonder what she sees, when she thinks of paradise, maybe she’ll dream of me. So every night I pray, that when she goes to sleep, and she dreams of a love, maybe she’ll dream of me.” This was the first song I had on repeat. I think I honestly listened to it at least 9 times before moving to the next song. Oh, we get some bars from the rapping Phonte as well, to layer the fabulous-ness of this track.

7. Don’t Wait
Featuring Darien Brockington
This one is for the romantics, the dreamers, the emotional junkies even. As the title suggests, this song is essentially about riding the emotions as far as they take you. “If someone loves you back, don’t get in the way, don’t hold it back, don’t wait.” Curious that this song is being made in a time when divorce rates are higher than crime rates in some cities. I’m with it though. As a Pisces, I’ve followed this songs advice a lot in my own life.

8. Make Me A Fool
Featuring Jesse Boykins III and Median
This, for me, is the only misstep on the album. I don’t think it’s a misstep because it’s a bad, I just don’t like one part of the track. There is a sound on here that is on repeat and it annoys me like crazy. I think if that sound was gone, my take on the song would be totally different. Jesse’s voice is seasoned and distinguishable and Median’s verse is welcome. I think outside of the sound, this song is pretty nice. The subject matter is the vocal expression of that unspoken thought/feeling we have in any relationship, the title says it all.

9. Everything Must Go
In the same expressionist theme of “Eyes To the Sky”, “Everything Must Go” is a hopeful song that speaks to the transitions of life and understanding that the universe moves, you can either go with it or be stuck. No matter the catalyst, you gotta grasp this fact and move on…at least that’s what I took from the song.

10. Laughing at Your Plans
Featuring Chantae Cann
You mix a little spirituality with a dash of country musical influence and the trance inducing vocals of Chantae Cann and you get this song. “Maybe now you’ll understand / that God is laughing at your plans/what will be will be/why don’t you come inside my friend/out of the rain and maybe then/you’ll see what i see.” This is another favorite on the album.

11. This City Ain’t the Same Without You
Featuring YahZarah
I promise, I don’t do this on purpose. One of the things I try to do, especially on FE albums, is listen first before I read features. That way I have no expectations or biases, or so I hope. Well, the fact that YahZarah is singing on this song and it’s admittedly my second favorite song on the album isn’t my fault. This is another motion-picture feeling production for the album. Also, just like the other tracks on the album, lyrically, it’s damn near flawless. I won’t go into how much I love YahZarah’s voice on this song, I mean, I’m sure you get it by now.

Bottom Line:
A lot of the reviews online will try to compare and contrast this album with those albums before it, most notably, LIAB (Leave It All Behind). I don’t see the purpose in that for this album. This duo has evolved to something new with each album and comparisons and contrasts seem to limit what this album is. If not just by production alone, this album is a motion picture that I hope they let me help direct the videos for. Like I noted previously, the feel of a lot of these songs has that 80′s love movie feel to it, you know those songs that you know and sing randomly during the day, then wonder why and where you got that from…those songs. Much like the music from those movies as well, these songs are very expressive, dramatic, sincere, and deliberate. If you’ve loved or even been deep in like, this album will resonate with you beyond some comparison of albums or desire for the familiar. Experiences like this album are why The Foreign Exchange Music group is currently my favorite musical brand right now and for the foreseeable future. In a time where folks aren’t talking musical chances because the dollar has trumped expression, and being hot is more important than being good, Authenticity stands out just like the leaf on the album cover.

Soulections: SUPPORT

Listen: The Foreign Exchange – “Maybe Dream Of Me”

[audio:|titles=06 Maybe She'll Dream Of Me]


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  3. A Reader! says:

    This is entirely produced by Nicolay, right?

  4. CornellDaGr8 says:

    I am sure you meant “in my own life” when writing about track 7. Good review though.

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