Having been a fan of The Foreign Exchange since their emergence on the scene back in 2004, it was pleasant news hearing that a new album would be released 2 years following Love in Flying Colors. This, the sixth release entitled Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey, is full of the exuberant sounds that fans of both Phonte Coleman and Nicolay have come to enjoy; however, it is a departure from the smooth roots that brought them to the forefront of many different genres. It can be argued that artists and bands are constantly seeking new ways to perfect their craft but in this case, the group went a bit overboard.
The opener, “Milk and Honey” offers an electronic vibe that sounds like a mixture of Miguel Migs, Deodato with a dash of Ministry of Sound nightclub beats that make for a lush experience, just not for that of what the listener has come to expect from the group. The Foreign Exchange seems to be going for a new audience of audiophiles with the hope of expanding their fan base. It’s admirable, but instead comes across as mere desperation rather than anything worthy of one pressing the replay button. The same can be said for “Truce,” which works its way into the collection as a breezy cut replete with production that saturates the speakers and can only be called a tempered neo-soul fiasco.
The first single from Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey, “Asking for a Friend,” finds Phonte taking on a British sound. Not knowing Coleman’s ancestry, it’s impossible to know if he has British roots, but to date; there have been no accounts of him referring to an apartment as a flat or acting as if he’s sipped tea and ate crumpets on the regular. The song, though, accomplishes what it sets out to do – which is getting whoever is around, nodding their head. On “As Fast as You Can,” Nicolay offers up a disco-esque vigor, that upon first listen sounds eerily similar to something Naked Music would produce, but gets better as it progresses. Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey closes with “Until the Dawn (Milk and Honey Pt.2),” that revisits the rhythms featured in part one. It is a fitting close to an album that unfortunately does not achieve anything memorable.
While it is true that the group has dabbled into the electronic genre, they have traditionally weaved it into a hip hop or neo-soul flow making for an unparalleled audio adventure. Listening to Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey, admirers of the matchless production from Nicolay, and prolific bars and metaphors from Phonte will be undoubtedly be shaking their heads as they opt for songs of FE yesteryear such as “Better,” “Maybe She’ll Dream of Me,” or “Nic’s Groove.”