Every Foreign Exchange album is a departure, an abrupt turn from what you've come to expect that takes a minute to grow on you. Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey, the group's fifth album since emerging in 2004, is as delectable as it sounds, and this time around, rather than requiring the usual marination period, this one can cook immediately.
From the Azymuth-evoking bossa nova of the "Milk and Honey" intro that carries into the stink-faced funk of "Work It To The Top," the Foreign Exchange demonstrate a confidence that comes with a decade of sound reinvention. The satirical UK house single "Asking For A Friend" achieves the rare feat of garnering lulz and spins. "Truce" finds Phonte Coleman returning to his 2010 theory of love being an armistice at best, proving lush instrumentation that makes even concession sound endearing. "As Fast As You Can" is classic FE+ excellence on which synths are played like orchestras and four on the floor drums take on a dream-like quality. Fittingly for such artists' artists, the strongest ode is to a couple of chords on "Sevenths and Ninths."
What's unique about Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey is the defining of core group members. Phonte and Nicolay have always been the duo behind the name, with the help of various guests across albums, but the placement of composer/keyboardist Zo! and vocalists Carmen Rodgers and Tamisha Waden on the album cover suggest a new, fuller roster. Much has been written about the Foreign Exchange's unlikely international pairing, but their continued experimentation and regeneration has by now surpassed their origin story. This North Carolina-based outfit have gone from outliers to one of the most consistent acts in R&B. (Foreign Exchange)