When you listen to some of the top performing artists around Houston, you might realize that there are more than a few bands with heavy hitters in them. For a good while now, Robert Ellis, Vodi, and Dollie Barnes have employed the same drummer in their bands with Tank Lisenbe. While it's no surprise that the guy can beat a kit like it owes him money, or brush the skins as softly as you'd stroke a puppy, his solo record under the name Tan Kin is something completely different, yet still enchanting. By playing the bulk of the instruments and writing some solid tracks, Lisenbe proves he's much more than just another drummer on Mercury.
Opening with the pedal steel drenched sounds of "What I Would Do," Lisenbe channels the likes of George Harrison and Tom Petty without copying too much of their styles. There's a mix of instrumentation here that's top notch, where his endearing vocals mixed with snappy rhythm section create a song that could stand alone as a lead single or in the very least, and organically crafted pop tune. He follows this with the sixties tinged and maximum R&B influenced sounds of "A Bit More." The song holds some Beatles' nods while also utilizing a stride reserved for doo wop tracks, though the song is closer to traditional rock n' roll more than anything else. His vocals are so solid, it makes you wonder why he hasn't been singing leads for a good while. The sixties rock influence keeps up on "Drinking Alone," where Lisenbe adds a little bit of sound from The Byrds or even Small Faces, where those almost psych tinged licks are mixed with the jangled tones of the era. However, Tan Kin isn't a lift but closer to an homage in how it comes across. Whatever he's influenced by, it works as the song is one of the catchiest on the album and really sticks with you after one listen.
Two tracks later, he takes things in to a more lounge influenced sound on the hook filled song, "You're Not What They Want." The backing vocals, Lisenbe's own sauntering voice, and an almost orchestral backing make the song another stand out. By pulling from eras that have been gone from modern music, there's a charm to the song that reminds you of the past without sounding too much like a cover track. When Lisenbe takes things down a step, he still finds a way to keep those influences strong while adding plenty of hooks in the process. On "Trample and Roar," his fusion of pop and R&B influenced British rock on this song makes it stronger than the sum of its parts. Essentially just a track made up of vocals and an acoustic guitar, there are these backing vocal tracks that lie in the background that create a sound that adds so much without muddying the process. The song is really masterfully done, while staying seemingly simple with complexities added to make it that much more intriguing. The final song of the ten, "Jesus Loves Me," is subtle and full, like a mosaic of sounds that seem to dance underneath a relaxed track that's so much more than what it seems on first listen. While Tan Kin showcases all that Lisenbe can do on his own, the song is a fitting closer to an album that sounds like the opposite of what you might have expected.
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The craziest part of this album is that it's two years old and it sounds like it could come out next year. By coupling traditional rock tempos with R&B and traditional chord progressions, Tan Kin gives you lots of what you love in a fresh and new way to experience it all. You can follow Tan Kin on Facebook, or purchase Mercury directly from Bandcamp.