The Town and the City

Los Lobos. Hollywood/Mammoth.

How does a great band keep evolving after more than three decades? For Los Lobos, it means ignoring the commercial gods, who don't care about them anyway, and making the music wider and stranger, without forgetting their roots. The group's first collection of all-new material since 2002 provides everything a fan would expect, including traditional styles ("Chuco's Cumbia"), David Hidalgo's tender ballads ("Little Things"), and bluesy, two-fisted rave-ups ("Two Dogs and a Bone"). Yet nothing seems to go exactly to plan, because the songs have a muddy undercurrent, as if stray weird noises have seeped into the textures, adding a sense of unknown forces at work. That's no small achievement in this tidy digital age. The East L.A. quintet has long been defined by a strong sense of place—a previous album was titled The Neighborhood—and this terrific set has the warm vibe of home, even though Los Lobos keep rearranging the furniture.