Album Review: Foreign Exchange – Leave it All Behind

by Couch Sessions

Foreign Exchange
Leave It All Behind

Netherlands producer Nicolay, and MC, Phonte one half of Little Brother have come together for their second Foreign Exchange effort entitled Leave it All Behind. With Nicolay moving to North Carolina where Phonte is from and still resides, one would think studio sessions as opposed to the Internet and file sharing that occurred while Nicolay was stationed in the Netherlands would be more frequent. Wrong, the combo figured if it worked, why fix it? As well, with our current economic state where gas is $4.00 per/gallon even though they’re in the same state, money is money.

Lyrically we were all privy to Phonte’s singing qualifications on the first FE album in addition to the sample we received on the first LB album the Listening, and in this day in age where Andre3000, Pharrell, and as of recent Kanye West have flirted with expanding their lyricism to carry a melodic tune this is one of the best experiments from the aforementioned group of artists. Phonte delivers real time stories that everyone has or will experience and can relate to, the disturbing reality is since the disappearing acts of D’Angelo and until recently Maxwell there hasn’t been act[s] besides the usual suspects that have written vivid experiences of life and love. You won’t hear Tigallo talking about buying a drink or getting someone is his ride but you will hear stories with a clear, distinct and fresh Nicolay sound that is in the same vein as the debut FE album. Since his solo efforts and producing for other artists Nicolay meshes perfectly with the North Carolinian and they sound as if they’ve done this before.

FE also reintroduces the world to Washington, DC’s own Muhsinah, who was heavily featured on the album, if you don’t know her, she was recently on tour with Common as a background artist and singer and she has her own EP entitled Daybreak and she proves to play the perfect supporting role on tracks like “House of Cards” and “Daykeeper.” Overall, Leave it All Behind is more than an experiment but a work that stretches the possibilities of good music and makes people forget about the purpose of genres.

  • Mike52

    Spot on review. You checking out the show Sunday night at Black Cat?

  • JConda

    In addition to what was eloquently stated above…

    2 things set this album apart from the masses: vocal arrangements & musicianship. The intricately layered vocal arrangements, starting from about 1:30 into “Daykeeper” to the end of the album, recall to mind the work of Leon Ware and Marvin (to my mind at least). Truth be told, Phonte is not that dope of a singer…he’s adequate enough to get his point across without distraction…but he’s no maestro. However the precise arrangements allow his voice to transcend and stir emotions in a way unseen in ‘modern r&b’.

    Nicolays musicianship is outstanding on this album too. When’s the last time we’ve heard a track flip from a 4/4 MPC’d headnodder into a 3/4 acoustic waltz and back again (Daykeeper)? Nicolay played and sampled himself playing several instruments which keeps a very natural feel to the work.

    Outstanding…and I’m keeping my vote here for album of the year.

    …yes I should have posted all this rhetoric on my own site…but I’m lazy and stupid like that :)

    Much love,


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