Not to be mistaken for a club-oriented project from Grammy-nominated R&B stalwart Durrell "Tank" Babbs, Tank and the Bangas are a wholly collaborative band fronted by the like-nicknamed Tarriona Ball, a poet, singer, and rapper of many, many voices. Ball and the versatile core four instrumentalists have been around since 2011, when they began to build a following in their native New Orleans with a thrilling live show. After six years of activity documented on several live releases and the studio album Think Tank, the band saw their audience multiply instantly when they won NPR's Tiny Desk Contest. The obvious appeal across slightly overlapping demographics -- R&B lovers yearning for bands that aren't museum acts, performing arts students, people who didn't know until October 29, 2014, that T-Pain can sing, and so forth -- led to a deal with Verve Forecast. Two live EPs and a much larger studio recording budget later, the band truly arrive with Green Balloon. For Tank and the Bangas, the title symbolizes wealth, weed, inexperience, and celebration all at once. Ball indulges in some joyously materialistic wordplay but elsewhere alludes to money as a necessity for survival. She sings often of getting high while also feeling guilt about it. As she tries to keep it together, she feels overstimulated, loses track of time and belongings, and achieves blissful escape until a sense of inertia takes over. There's some heartache, too -- most moving of all on "Colors Change," a metaphor-laced reproach of an ungratified lover. No matter how high or low Ball gets, the Bangas keep it vibrant, interacting with the kind of range and fluidity possible only through years of playing together. Never locked in one groove, the players evidently value all eras of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop. Lined up with Mark Batson, Robert Glasper, Jack Splash, and even Zaytoven separately producing or co-produced the majority of the songs, Tank and the Bangas are still involved with all aspects of the recording process and sound every bit like the band that made Think Tank. In particular, "Mr. Lion" -- all strings, piano, Ball, and background harmonies, like something Pharrell Williams intended for the end of a N.E.R.D album until realizing that it requires a powerhouse singer -- indicates that they don't need the help.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman