Chronicles of a Diamond
Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada's journey as Black Pumas has already reached stratospheric heights. Their 2019 self-titled debut showed how the pairing of singer-songwriter Burton and guitarist Quesada—a belter making his name on the streets of Austin known for his work with the funk collective Grupo Fantasma—shared a vision of modern soul that built on the storied genre's past while cracking open new ideas of its potential future. Chronicles of a Diamond, Black Pumas' second album, continues Burton and Quesada's quest to upend any expectations listeners might have of them. "More Than a Love Song," which opens the album, allows Burton to fully lean into his emotions over a shuffling beat and sumptuous arrangement where heat-lightning guitars duel with swooping strings and sparkling keyboards. "You got the muse, the music, sweet soul music/To reignite your soul divine, to reignite your soul," Burton exhorts, sounding as if he's doing exactly that in real time. Over Chronicles' 10 songs, Burton and Quesada—as well as collaborators like keyboardist JaRon Marshall—push their limits, with Quesada's dazzling guitar lines and Burton's yelps seemingly daring each other to dig deeper into their musical arsenals. The infatuated "Hello" is a psychedelia-tinged showcase for Burton's upper register, its arpeggiated keyboards and lazy-day guitar lines whirling into a choral swirl that turns his quest for love into a holy pursuit; "Gemini Sun" gets its sinister vibes not just from Burton's vivid lyrics ("Black and blue until we paint a casket/Nothing left but this reverberation"), but from an organ that's fuzzed-out enough to sound like it was excavated from a villain's lair.