By Kristine Volovsek
The first time I heard Common Labor’s “Tales of the Troubadours” I was actually walking to work listening on headphones through my phone. The first two tracks really set an awesome pace to move to. Since I had no idea what to expect or what I was about to get into, I was excitingly surprised. When the third track “Burn Down the Old School” started playing I immediately started humming and singing along – I wondered if maybe I had heard it on the radio some place or time before. I definitely jammed to that track on repeat for a hot minute. When I got home from work a half-day later, I knew it was time to listen to this album on some speakers for real.
Overall, the album starts really energetic, hard, and heavy. It slows down with some deep stuff in the middle, and then picks it up again at the end. On the first listen, I skipped through the middle tracks because it didn’t work with my pace. When I finally sat down and took the time to listen to the whole thing I immediately grew appreciative of the album in its entirety.
In “Dust Storm” you initially get intrigued by the bass, and all of a sudden it busts into this heavy beat and some rocking guitar. I like this song because it has so many parts to it. It is impossible not to move to “The Middle March” and its message “The future’s all up to you… You will always make your own reality” rings true. “Burn Down the Old School” is definitely my favorite track on the album. I love the guitar throughout this song and the chorus is so catchy you’ll want to keep singing along. Check out the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91bYQ6MtTk4 . “Here for You Too” is where it starts to slow down a bit. “Learning” is a relatable song about wanting to figure out how to be a better partner. “I wanted sex but none of the rest… now I’m feeling foolish walking with an empty hand.”
“Pull Me” pulls the listener through a constant flow of lyrics, and the end of the song takes you right into “One Time.” The next track, “Running Away,” slowly builds up into this gritty blend of rock and rap. “Images” speaks of peoples’ subjective interpretation of art and how “There’s always someone better than you.” The last track on the album (though similarly titled, it is different than the album’s name) “Tale of the Troubadours” delivers imagery that takes you along for a ride. With references to the lifestyle, the listener is left knowing that Common Labor is made of troubadours at heart.
Common Labor is Analyrical and Phingaz, who have both built a hefty repertoire over the years. Part of a Minneapolis hip-hop collective known as Background Noise Crew (http://www.backgroundnoisecrew.com/), both Analyrical and Phingaz have been in the local indie hip-hop scene for a long time. Somehow, even though they’ve known and worked with each other for about 8 years, this is the first time Analyrical and Phingaz have created and released an entire album together as Common Labor.
According to Phingaz, the name Common Labor stems from their music-writing process, “To me, our music is working with simple/common things to build a more complicated whole. We didn’t use really flashy/powerful programs or studio to create, we would work songs from the ground up – building them together. Colin (Analyrical) adding words – me adding music – borrowing from each other. To me, Common Labor is that – it’s our process.” To my surprise I found out that “Tales of the Troubadours” was created entirely without samples and the album was made during “marathon recording sessions, often for a day or two straight” in Phingaz’ South Minneapolis basement.
Diverse rock and rap influences Common Labor’s cohesive sound. Analyrical and Phingaz’s styles really sync together and complement each other well. Common Labor finds its unique sound blending the alt-indie-hip-hop-rock genres. The album cover embodies Common Labor’s continual growth and change.
If you’re diggin’ “Tales of the Troubadours” like I am, I recommend checking out Common Labor’s two unreleased tracks (http://commonlabor.bandcamp.com/album/know-the-box-digital-12) and be on the lookout for the next Common Labor show.
Listen to the album here http://commonlabor.bandcamp.com/