On its self-titled 2005 debut, Puerto Rican duo Calle 13 was hilarious and musically innovative, vocalist Residente's lyrics poking fun at every aspect of contemporary Latin culture while his cousin Visitante's beats combined reggaeton, hip-hop and funk into a swirling, irresistible groove. Last year's follow-up Residente o Visitante was more thoughtful, guest-heavy and musically broad-minded; if it occasionally stumbled into arty pastiche, overall it was a surefooted, politically aware next step.
Calle's new effort, Los de Atrás Vienen Conmigo (The Ones Left Behind Are Coming with Me), is more fun than its predecessor, with Café Tacuba and Ruben Blades the big-ticket guests this time, Tacuba serving as backing band and chorus on relatively straight love song "No Hay Nadie Como Tú." The seven-minute tropical jam "La Perla" finds Blades not only singing but rapping and holding his own, which may not surprise those familiar with the talk-singing on his own classic '70s albums. Visitante's compositions — calling them "beats" or "tracks" sounds ridiculously reductive — grab sounds from across the globe this time, including New Orleans second-line rhythms and Dixieland on "Gringo Latin Funk," early-'80s electro on "Electro Movimiento," African guitars on "Esto Con Eso" and a crazed Balkan whirl on "Fiesta de Locos."
Though his vulgarity remains unrestrained, Residente's apparently sick of being Latin culture's whipping boy: "Que Lloren" and "Ven y Critícame" are direct responses to critics from within the reggaeton scene and outside. (The chorus of "Que Lloren" translates "I love it when they cry"; the latter's title means "Come and Criticize Me.") Combining the fun of its debut with the follow-up's sonic adventurism, Conmigo is a genre-redefining — if not genre-shattering — triumph. Formerly Latin music's court jesters, Calle 13 have become its future kings. — Phil Freeman