Is it funny that when certain other MC/crooners dare to show their emotion through song I can't get over how bad they sound yet when Phonte Coleman does the same over beats laid down by the marvelously talented best Dutch export since Denis Bergkamp, I proclaim the results Beautiful Music and proceed to go into detail as to why? Call it professional bias, call it the fact that I think the MC/crooner in question fell off (or in some respects was never really on), or simply call it impeccable taste, The Foreign Exchange never disappoint... apart from the really cheesy album title!
Love In Flying Colors, is in some ways the antithesis of Authenticity. I would call it reverse adolescense, or Benjamin Button syndrome. The brooding late teenager becomes the wide eyed boy just now discovering the perils and pitfalls of love. The former laughs where the latter cried, it celebrates there the other commiserated. The new kid pulls you in and hugs you whereas its predecessor pushed and shoved in places. Authenticity may have worn its heart on its sleeve but this time Oprah is looking on in mild disbelief as LIFC does its very best Tom Cruise on leg springs impersonation.... and that is its strength.
Phonte has been criticised by many for his perceived loss of 'manhood' by taking what those same critics would call a detour. But the obvious answer is 'how do any of us know that this isn't where the mans career path wasn't going to lead him anyway?'. Besides who are we to judge the man on anything apart from his music. In my view he is one titantium backboned SOB. The man was easily one of the best MCs around when Little Brother were at their peak. His verbal dexterity on The Minstrel Show is still in my view one of the most well rounded showcases by any MC in the last 15 or so years. Question MCs who use autotune. Question MCs who make comebacks that they have no business making. Question music getting radio play that has no god given reason to be anywhere near my wonderfully crafted headphones. But please do not question the ability of Phonte Coleman!
Okay... the music. Electro-RnB-Synth-House-Lightbeat-Soul is the only way I can try to put this album into a box (I coin the phrase Lightbeat here and now). But doing so is misguided and by trying to do so im doing LIFC a disservice. For me, Nicolay can now stand alongside say... James Poyser and Raphael Saadiq (amongst others) as arguably the most influential multi-instrumentalist producers of the last 10-15 years. Never have i heard such distinctly manufactured sounds combined with such depth. To be honest I missed that upon my first listen and thus it sounded all the better second (third, fourth, fifth...) time around. Every track has this same underlying hypnotic tone as its sighnature and they simply (in premise anyway) seem to just organically expand in whichever direction the fellas' thoughts and emotions seem to be leaning toward at the time and it is effortless.
The pace of the album is also superbly judged. The now signature introductory electro warbles give way to the oh so 4Hero If I Knew Then. After Sy Smith takes hook duties to simple yet very effective heights on 'Right After Midnight' comes the track that will be a staple on many a heads playlist. Just like 'Make Me A Fool' did on the last album, 'Better' shows all the wannabees what conventional RnB sounds like when it's done properly. However, the perfect case in point for Phonte and Nics track placement are tracks 5-8. 'Listen' To The Rain is the rollercoaster on its way up yet you hit the top on the very next song, the wonderfully light Drum & Bass lifter 'Call It Home' and what i would call its bouncier sibling, 'The Moment' and also 4Heroesque, 'Can't Turn Around'. Yet my personal favourite is the albums encore. 'When I Feel Love' owes such status to Jeanne Jolly's beautifully whispering vocal being a perfect match for the string laden backing. In my view they saved the best song for last. I do usually refrain from pulling out and holding up my I 'heart' this song card but being that it is the best of a heavenly bunch my normal mild mannered alter ego is on an extended lunch break at the moment. These two can do no wrong, and I will have cross words with anyone who tells you different. Beautiful Music yet again!
Buy: The Foreign Exchange - Love In Flying Colors