Los Tigres del Norte

The average unsuspecting gringo has no idea: Across Latin America, Los Tigres del Norte are huge, regularly selling out stadiums of more than 80,000 seats, registering global sales of more than 32 million records -- that kind of huge.

Detalles y Emociones is something like the group's 56th album (really), and across fifteen tracks effortlessly defends Los Tigres' near-mythological position as the fiercest cats in the regional Mexican music known as norteño. To untrained ears, this is at first bouncy, relentlessly cheerful music, a style driven by the oompah of a syncopated twelve-string guitar and rollicking accordion. But the lyrics reveal more nuanced emotions, reminding listeners, often with a bittersweet intonation, to value family, true friends, and honest effort. "It's important to be rich," lead vocalist Jorge Hernndez concedes on opening track "Detalles," "but it's much more rich to be important."

But the catchiest tune here is also the most overtly political: "El Muro" is a no-holds-barred attack on Bush-backed immigration "reform," a lament that accuses the American president of missing the point. "Better to build a bridge," Jorge urges in Spanish. "Just as you see us in the country, you also see us in offices. You know you need us, on your team and even in the kitchen." Unsurprisingly it's also the only song with a bit of spoken English. It's relatively fiery rhetoric, but the best norteño has historically been socially engaged. From a group that remains the best of the best, we'd expect nothing less. -- Arielle Castillo