The Foreign Exchange family's third 2010 release, following YahZarah's The Ballad of Purple St. James and Zo!'s SunStorm, Authenticity is the third proper album from the flagship act helmed by Nicolay and Phonte. It's somehow more lush and downcast than 2008's Leave It All Behind, frequently dipping into an alluring type of despondent heartache that is improbably soothing. Opening with an eerie intro similar to that of the Grammy-nominated "Daykeeper," Authenticity promptly gets to the black heart of the matter: "Loved you good, and you wrote our heartbreak in the sky." Phonte, whose singing voice is equally resigned and penetrating, lets loose a torrent of Hear, My Dear-worthy bombs, like "Love is at worst an excuse/At best it's a truce/So what is the use?" The song's tremulous, synthesizer-laced production would have fit on Nicolay's City Lights, Vol. 2: Shibuya, had Nicolay experienced a crippling loss during the trip that inspired that album. The following slow-motion title track, rhythmically resembling warped Purple Rain-era Prince, furthers the album's theme of pouring everything into a relationship despite being aware of the futility. Here, Phonte is in full soul-baring confession mode: "She's all that I could dream, but she tears me apart." A couple significant songs detour from bad-lover territory, though they could be re-sequenced to seem more like chronological scenes from a relationship in gradual decay. "Maybe She'll Dream of Me," sweet and percolating, is a light song in the best sense, but in the context of all the heartache, one gets the overriding notion that it's more about pursuing something that could only be too good to be true. "Make Me a Fool," as in "I'm not asking you to be an angel/Just don't ever make me a fool," seems to sense the inevitable in spite of its guard dropping. More moody, modern R&B that sounds like nothing else and reveals remarkable depth (there's even a little well-placed twang and some violin), Authenticity is neither an everyday nor an every-day album, unless playing it is necessary for the sake of convalescence.
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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman