Posts Tagged ‘Black Pumas


Black Pumas and Catnip…

I don’t consider myself the average listener. Casually listening to the radio was never my thing. It’s my time, I know what I want to hear. When using Spotify, I select the music and cue the queue to my desire. Those curated playlists and the scientifically algorithmic “State of Music Today” folders don’t get play. It’s not that I don’t listen to popular music, it’s I’m lost inside of my musical bubble that rarely do I know what tops the charts or is up for awards. But clearly, I’m immersed in at least one mainstream artist. And now I can’t steer clear of blurbs and dedicated articles to this weekend’s Grammy’s.

Speculating on potential Grammy nominees and winners is irrelevant. Is the committee of this six decade plus tradition still relevant? Was it ever? When an artist I do respect is nominated for an award, it makes me smile. This is great exposure, most likely positive press, and an opportunity for the masses to experience a worthwhile act.

Stereogum, the self-described world’s best music blog, recently upped an article that is intriguing but also pains me. Their Senior Editor helps his viewers to understand why an act like Black Pumas are so coveted by the Grammy’s. He’s making an “anthropological observation”. They’re digestible, do what they do well, and perform in classic genres. The ideal formula to create “catnip for TV Producers and certain kinds of yuppie authenticity fetishists”.

Ultimately, though, Black Pumas is a deeply conservative listen, a painstaking re-creation of throwback sounds. Whereas someone like Michael Kiwanuka (a nominee for Best Rock Album this year) will step these kinds of sounds into the present in surprising and rewarding ways, Black Pumas pretty much play it straight.

The discourse on the Grammy’s race dilemma is engaging, as is why the Pumas are nominated for top-tier awards. But criticism on their lack of originality is banal. Pumas are label mates with Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket on ATO Records, two acts that Stereo’s writer considers more adventurous than the Austin soulful duo.

Do those adventurous acts warrant repeatable listens next year and half a decade later? I recall my own previous Best of Year lists and question what I was thinking. When I randomly retrieve a Best Album list from a Stereogum or Pitchfork-like site from say 2008, that at the time had a list of novel sounds, today more often than not falls flat.

Yes, Pumas are a revival act, one masterly taking the soulful sounds of yesterday to create original songs on topics of today. The blueprint for this trusted and dusty sound the Pumas utilize works. It’s a pick me up sound, it’s one I can play no matter the company I keep, it’s a throwback theatrical production. Where many albums are mood and time of the day dependent, the Pumas concoct a timeless sound. Morning, evening, during a meal, or five years from now, I want to drop the needle on this sound.

This author’s profile pic is none other than the cover of Emergency & I, the spastic, indie darling, genre-bending 1999 album from Dismemberment Plan. An album where this D.C. act’s influences are crammed in an industrial blender and placed on high until their indescribable creation is a sonic puree. Historically, fans of this holier than thou record think that no song, album, or movement could ever create something better than Emergency & I. And it’s with that sentiment I realize Black Pumas are up against impossible odds.

Last year Pumas one upped themselves with a Deluxe Edition of their self-titled debut. This week they take it to another level as they unleash the Expanded Deluxe Edition, a collection of everything from the Deluxe Edition plus 11 additional tracks; including the hypnotic “Colors” rendition done up big by Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and the Pumas’ Capitol Studio A sessions. If they are a less adventurous sound it would be fitting for the me of today. I’ve already owned prioritizing bedtime over shows. Why not transition into enjoying a sound that’s engineered for the Recording Academy and the masses?


Black Pumas’ Christmas Will Really Be Christmas…

My listening habits are known throughout my house. I have my staples amongst my family, and I have a protocol for independent listening. A few nights back, I placed The Raveonettes’ “Snowstorm” on with its sleigh bells, Christmas references, and snowy aura throughout. My wife was quick to question my selection, “You never listen to Christmas music”, she surprisingly said. No, historically every other genre of music brings me joy.

Christmas lights are going up early this year. The thought is because we lack joy. The data doesn’t lie, Spotify analysts have noticed we are listening to holiday music earlier this year. Now we have an additional 12 songs to add to the Christmas canon with Spotify Singles Holiday Collection.

A diverse lineup of artists reinterpreting Christmastime classics; Julien Baker, Dashboard Confessional, and my modern day soul staples the Black Pumas. The Austin duo chose the prolific, multi-talented professional Lou Rawls to pay homage to and bring a much needed message to 2020’s finale: when hearts are filled with joy instead of worrying in fear we can truly rejoice and experience the moment.

The regal-sounding and uplifting holiday original “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” appeared on Rawls’ 1967 holiday-themed record Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho! An updated version finds Burton’s vocals soaring high, sexy backup vocals complementing the joyous arrangement, and a reminder of music’s necessity in a time like this.

“We were really attracted to the message, the lyrics, the arrangement, the feeling,” frontman Eric Burton says. “It’s a message that needs to be heard right now.” Little did I know how this sound, this once a year genre was missing from my listening quiver.


Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)

Strong records from debut artists hooked me in 2019 while on a multi-year blog break. One was Black Pumas, a sensual, soulful duo out of Austin, TX. With a dynamic frontman in Eric Burton, with enough charismatic smoothness of an Otis Redding with plenty of young volcanic James Brown energy. Live, he’s there to perform, put on a theatrical-like production through movement, running his voice through various registers, and complementing Adrian Quesada’s neo-soul beauty.

“Black Pumas made you something special.” was in my inbox this morning.

“Fans First”, is Spotify’s feature where listeners of specific artists get first dibs on various offerings; gig access, t-shirts, and pre-sales of upcoming record releases.

“11 bonus tracks including unreleased originals, live recordings, and four cover songs” jumped out in a “Fans First” email. I’m a completist for artists that move me. Their debut consisted of 10 tracks. Every song is warm and inviting, possesses the ability to make you feel and move through poetic lyricism advocating for love and unity; and perfect dinner music. Additional Black Pumas excited me. A sense of urgency came over me as the scarcity of this release was highlighted:

“This Fan’s First pressing is limited to 1000 copies worldwide, pressed on an exclusive color and only available while supplies last.”

Sold, Spotify. Artists have no idea how important their art has been to push us through these troubling, unknown times. I know that a vinyl release is a piece of art. This purchase is an enhancement to my listening experience, and more importantly, a small token of appreciation for all Black Pumas do.

Upcoming Shows:


May 2021