Black Pumas: Chronicles Of A Diamond [Album Review]

Black Pumas
Chronicles Of A Diamond
ATO Records [2023]

The eponymous debut album from the Black Pumas, released in 2019, feels like it was released much longer ago as we now sit in 2023 and reflect on the world events over the last four years since its release. Of course, in the music world, four years might as well be decades considering how rapidly the scene changes. However, some of this time can be simply explained by the massive success of the debut. Their smash single “Colors” is a gold-certified anthem. They received seven Grammy Award nominations, including Record of the Year, and have amassed over 450 million streams. The record was practically everywhere.

The Austin Texan duo, consisting of vocalist Eric Burton and producer/guitarist Adrian Quesada, returns with Chronicles Of A Diamond and delivers a record that once again effortlessly fuses classic soul and funk with a contemporary, indie sensibility. The album is a stylish groove, a listening experience that is brimming with emotion and musicality. Much like before, Burton’s vocals are a revelation, dripping with raw emotion and a timbre reminiscent of legends like Otis Redding. When you combine this with the production by Quesada, which is rich in lush arrangements, tight rhythms, and a keen sense of sonic balance that allows each instrument to shine, Chronicles Of A Diamond showcases their musical prowess.

“More Than A Love Song” opens the record, and its soulful and upbeat ode to the myriad shades of love and life is a bright spot on the album. Burton’s vocal delivery is nothing short of spellbinding, as he effortlessly shifts between honeyed crooning and powerful belting. The song is a masterpiece of songwriting and emotional depth. “Ice Cream (Pay Phone)” attempts to switch up their formula, but its rock-pop vibes didn’t quite resonate with me. However, “Mrs. Postman” quickly brings us back to their signature soul sound for a welcome rebound.

For me, the record closes with three great tracks that venture into new sounds and leave you wanting more. The electric guitar solo that soars near the end of soul burner “Tomorrow” takes the track to a new level and ear-catching. The upbeat stroll and intense organ playing in “Gemini Sun” will get your foot tapping, while the closer, “Rock And Roll,” is a standout track with its more spoken chorus. When Burton delivers, “Motivation, innovation, inspiration, temptation / Rock and roll, rock and roll / Rock and roll, rock and roll,” it all clicks as the binding anthem of Black Pumas, where soul meets indie.

Black Pumas create timeless music, which almost always guarantees a smooth listening experience. It’s an album that transcends genres and time, capturing the essence of classic soul and funk while infusing it with a contemporary spirit. It’s impossible to pigeonhole this band or record into a single category; it’s a melting pot of musical influences and a testament to the staying power of the Black Pumas.

“More Than A Love Song” / “Tomorrow” / “Rock And Roll”

Bill Withers / Alabama Shakes / Gary Clark Jr.

Black Pumas (2019)

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Thomas Wilde

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