Austin breakout stars Black Pumas release tasteful sophomore album to immediate acclaim
If the Austin music scene had a Spider-Man, it'd be Adrian Quesada. The man is everywhere; He has his boots on the ground with more than 150 production credits and success with Latin psych band Grupo Fantasma, and regularly stops by charity events to perform. But he's most powerful when you don't see his name: in the duo Black Pumas.
The Grammy Award-winning rock group, including co-founder Eric Burton, released its neat 10-song sophomore effort, Chronicles of a Diamond, on October 28 to an immediate wave of critical acclaim. (NPR listed the album in its best new releases for the week, and NME, American Songwriter, and more threw in their own positive two cents.)
A second LP is usually not time to fully reinvent, and Black Pumas live up to the unspoken promise of their debut. Chronicles of a Diamond delivers tasteful grooves and a light psychedelic flavor that doesn't actually require much of an altered consciousness to enjoy. Tracks like "Hello" and "Gemini Sun" with distant gospel vocals and trancey instrumental distortions bring a little more depth than before, while others like "Ice Cream (Pay Phone)" and "Sauvignon" insert a little playfulness.
As always with Black Pumas, the soul stylings are front-and-center in Burton's falsetto, but this record throws it back not just to Marvin Gaye but classic rock in all its flavors — nearly even stumbling into prog rock a few times, not least in the aptly titled "Rock and Roll." ("Innovation, inspiration, temptation," chants Burton against assertive riffs, one of which seems to whisper a twist on The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy).")
Album art courtesy of Black Pumas
This stylistic breadth and retro songwriting should keep this album relevant, and the band busy, for quite a while. With Burton joining Quesada as a co-producer on this album, there's a whole new dynamic to explore.
"More than anything I wanted to make something we’d be thrilled to play live 200 days a year,” said Burton, a self-taught musician and former Los Angeles busker in a release. “I wanted to be able to laugh, cry, bob my head, do the thing: It was all very much a selfish endeavor."
The floating, introspective "Colors" was the duo's runaway hit in 2019, in heavy rotation on alternative radio. So far the single "More Than a Love Song" seems like the standout on Chronicles of a Diamond, and has already hit No. 1 on on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Chart.
Despite the confidence that must bring, these seasoned-yet-just-breaking musicians tried to take it in stride. Burning out — or perhaps selling out — was not an option.
“I knew the first record was good when we finished it, but I had no idea people would respond like they did," said Quesada. “This time around there was a lot of pressure and expectation that we hadn’t felt before, which was overwhelming at times, but we did our best to tune that out and focus on trusting ourselves like we always have.”
Still very much a local band, Black Pumas are playing several shows in or near Austin in 2023 before heading off to big U.S. cities outside of Texas and even the U.S. (Notably, they'll also be breaking in a buzzy new San Antonio venue on its opening nights in February.)
- November 2 — C-Boy's Heart & Soul, with a live broadcast at 8pm CT on KUTX
- December 3-4 — ACL Live
- December 5-6 — ACL Live with Danielle Ponder
- December 8 — The Factory in Deep Ellum with Danielle Ponder (Dallas)
- December 9 — House of Blues with Danielle Ponder (Houston) (SOLD OUT)
- December 10 — House of Blues with Danielle Ponder (Houston)
- February 16-17 – Stable Hall (San Antonio)
Listen to Chronicles of a Diamond on your favorite streaming platform, or buy limited-edition vinyls and CDs from retailers on this list.