Tank and the Bangas just dropped a quarantine EP that hits close to home as we round up the final month of 2020. In just 21 minutes, Friend Goals brings us through a journey of funk, hip-hop, soul, jazz, and spoken word that speaks to experiences many of us have shared over the past year. While Friend Goals directly addresses COVID loneliness, its upbeat dance mood and theme of self-love breathes fresh air into a dreary time.
I first heard Tank and the Bangas on a Tiny Desk concert and was mesmerized by the band’s creativity and versatility. This New Orleans group has a way of blending playfulness and soulfulness in a way that feels like it shouldn’t work, and yet works so well. They are led by Tarriona “Tank” Ball, whose emotion and vocal expression give the group its characteristic energy and adventurousness.
In most of the band’s music, including Friend Goals, Ball alternates between a voice that sounds resonant and impassioned, and one that sounds more animated and lively. I’ve never heard vocal performance quite like hers before, nor have I heard an artist boldly weave poetry into music like she does. The way she moves seamlessly between all of these techniques is fascinating to me.
The EP’s second track, “Self Care,” is the quintessential quarantine bop we all need. It is not necessarily a happy song; rather, its lyrics convey relatable feelings of frustration and loneliness while simultaneously encouraging acceptance and self-love. The lines, “Feeling lonely I mean it / Seen the shadows I seen it / Tryna find the meaning” address the introspective loneliness born from solitude that many of us have experienced over the past nine months. The lyrics also acknowledge that sometimes it’s hard not to do things like call up your ex and relish in the familiarity and comfort of past happiness. However, that’s not all the song does. While recognizing that taking care of yourself can be difficult right now, “Self Care” wants you to embrace it. The track features a handful of vocalists in addition to Ball, including Jaime Woods, Orleans Big, and Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph, and they all sing with a strong energy that feels empowering to the listener. The last line, “I’m ready to get myself back” emphasizes acceptance and appreciation of oneself.
Altogether, it’s a song that holds a lot of different emotions, and like the lyrics, the music also taps into several moods. The opening features a penny whistle melody that repeats throughout the whole track and feels almost eerie. Yet, when the beat drops, you can’t stop your head from nodding along to the upbeat rhythm. “Self Care” is a complex song for a complex year.
As a whole, the EP sounds like a patchwork of thoughts. “Mr. Insta” underscores our social media obsessed culture through a rumination on online fame and its discouraging downfalls. On “Friend Goals,” Ball incorporates storytelling of childhood memories and delivers her bars with an animated vocal expression. These techniques uplift her message about the rarity and joy of long-lasting, meaningful friendship.
This EP is an exploration of different corners of emotion and musical genre. Though brief, it feels deeply honest.