Zacatecano singer and songwriter Pepe Aguilar is no stranger to trying new things. Though beloved for his readings of rancheras and mariachis, he has experimented with different styles, adding a selection or two to his albums and performing them in concert. No Lo Había Dicho turns on the circle of difference, however, and Aguilar expects his audience to follow him on the musical road. Co-producing with Yamil Rezc and Chile's Francis and Mauricio Duran of Los Bunkers, he delivers a program of rock, pop, cumbias, vallenatos, ballads, and a banda. First single "María" appears in two versions. Both were issued as digital and radio singles. The first is easily the most rock & roll track Aguilar's ever released, building up to an anthem-like crescendo that carries its guitar-laden hook. The banda is done in Sinaloense style and the shift in rhythms, though seemingly unlikely, is a perfect fit. Some of the other rock/pop tracks possess a dreamy psychedelic quality. Check the guitars/keyboards on ballads such as opener "Jamás Me Fui" and "Y Tú y Tú." "Mi Lindo Pueblo," a cumbia using folk instruments, more than once crosses the rhythm line into vallenato. "Pa' Que Te Convenzas" weds modern rocksteady reggae and cumbia with a killer surf guitar break. Centering this collection, however, are the ballads, no matter their musical setting. Again, Aguilar proves he is second to none in relaying romantic ache, passion, and loss, as on the pop-tinged "Ceustión de Esprar" and "Punto Final." But the best jams here are "Lo Que Siente un Corazón (Maldito Amor)," with its harpsichord intro that builds toward a doomed but passionate love song, and the closing title track, a brooding bluesy psych-rocker where Aguilar delves into his lower register as pillowy reverbed guitars, piano, harpsichord, Mellotron, and strings whirl around him. No Lo Había Dicho's ballads remain the core of who he is as a singer -- see 2015's Interpreta a Joan Sebastian for proof -- this date picks up on the forward-thinking promise of 2014's MTV Unplugged and carries its restless spirit into the studio. The production is wildly ambitious, the sequencing perfect, and the performances flawless. ~ Thom Jurek
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