This album represents a bold expansion of Black Pumas’ sonic palette. “Chronicles of a Diamond” doesn’t merely follow the path laid by their successful debut; it ventures into uncharted territories, exploring an array of musical genres with fearless enthusiasm. The result is a musical tapestry that’s part symphonic pop, part jazz-funk, part psychedelic, and all soul.
One striking aspect of “Chronicles of a Diamond” is the band’s ability to tune out external pressures and expectations. “I knew the first record was good when we finished it, but I had no idea people would respond like they did,” says 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.” As a result, Chronicles of a Diamond wholly echoes an essential intention behind its creation. “More than anything I wanted to make something we’d be thrilled to play live 200 days a year,” says Burton. “I wanted to be able to laugh, cry, bob my head, do the thing: it was all very much a selfish endeavor.”
At the heart of the album is the extraordinary chemistry between Burton and Quesada, a musical connection that is lightning in a bottle. Co-produced by Burton, the album features their free-spirited musicality on every track. Black Pumas’ longtime band also plays a significant role in shaping the album’s sound, resulting in a unique blend of studio craftsmanship and the raw energy of their live performances.
The journey begins with “More Than a Love Song,” a track that showcases Burton’s remarkable vocal prowess. The song starts with brisk beats, effervescent strings, and buzzing guitar riffs, building up to a moment of pure exultation powered by radiant gospel harmonies. This opener sets the stage for the audacious musical journey that follows, alluding to the band’s confidence and their commitment to pushing the boundaries of their sound.
“My entire approach to singing was definitely informed by our live show,” Burton points out. “Whenever we take the stage it’s the classic us-against-the-world kind of thing, and in reaching for my greatest strengths I ended up discovering new ones. With this album I felt very free in my vocal performance, which has a lot to do with Adrian hearing something in my voice and helping me to explore that.”
“Ice Cream (Pay Phone)” is a love song with a twist, featuring falsetto-laced vocals and a hypnotic rhythm that is simultaneously soulful and unconventional. The song represents Black Pumas’ willingness to experiment and embrace unorthodox musical choices, making it a standout track on the album.
“Mrs. Postman” is a soulful serenade that showcases the versatility of keyboardist JaRon Marshall. It’s a testament to the band’s forward-thinking approach to soul music and marks their first writting collaboration with another musician.
“Chronicles of a Diamond” is the sprawling title track that captures the essence of the album. It’s a multi-layered, intricate composition that combines elements of jazz and soul, featuring Burton’s signature vocals. The song’s lyrics, penned by Burton, take a unique perspective from a diamond in the back of a Cadillac.
“Angel” is a slow-burner with mesmerizing guitar work, mellotron melodies, and soul-baring lyrics that Burton wrote over a decade ago. The song explores themes of sanctuary and hope, reflecting on the challenges of life and the search for solace in the voice of an angel.
“Hello” takes a celestial turn with sublime synth tones and ethereal harmonies, showcasing the band’s willingness to embrace the unusual. This track highlights their fearless approach to experimentation, resulting in a mesmerizing and otherworldly musical experience.
“Rock and Roll” closes the album with a glorious epic that captures the raw energy and excitement that Black Pumas bring to their live performances. The track is a sonic adventure filled with delightfully warped vocal effects, showcasing their musical playfulness and boundless creativity.
“Chronicles of a Diamond” is a testament to Black Pumas’ willingness to evolve and push the boundaries of their sound. With each track, they invite listeners to join them on an extraordinary musical journey filled with surprises and emotional depth. In creating this album, they have crafted a piece of art that captures the essence of their live performances while embracing the possibilities of the studio.
Photo: Jody Domingue