Sound Advice

By Tim Donnelley

PETE ROCK & SMIF-N-WESSUN
Monumental (***)
Pete Rock has been killing it in the hip-hop game for more than 20 years.

From his groundbreaking early work with conscious rapping pioneers CL Smooth and A Tribe Called Quest to his most recent collaboration (Monumental) with Brooklyn mainstays Smif-n-Wessun, Rock's production resume is unmatched.

The Bronx-born producer's forte is matching gritty, yet heady East coast MCs with his buttery, jazzed-out beats.

That's exactly what he did with Monumental, and it paid  off-head bopping bangers from start to finish.

For fans of: J Dilla, 9th Wonder, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas
Standouts tracks: Prevail (feat. Raekwon), Night Time (feat. Buckshot)

BLACK HONDO
Black Hondo (***-1/2)
Thanks in part to all the "cock rock" that, ahem, penetrated the airwaves in the early 2000s (thank you, Creed), the term "rock and roll" has lost its vigor.

San Diego psych-rockers Black Hondo are attempting to restore the categorization to its '60s-era awesomeness.

Trippy, hard-rocking guitars and driving drums lay down the perfect foundation for seductive lead singer Lucina Gonzalez (think Jim Morrison meets Karen O) to vocally thrash about.

It's sexy, Mexican desert rock that flat-out rocks. Black Hondo nabbed an SD Music Awards nomination in the Best Rock Album category earlier this year. See them live at the Casbah August 6.

For fans of: The Black Keys, The Doors, Fugazi, Velvet Underground
Standout tracks: Take You Down, Mexican Rock

Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver (****)
In 2009, Bon Iver founder and frontman, Justin Vernon, holed up in a frigid Wisconsin cabin to record For Emma, For Ever Ago, an unassuming debut that merged Vernon's Prince-like falsetto harmonies with woodsy instrumentation.

A swift web buzz ensued, and the Bon Iver hype became so pervasive that even Kanye West was jocking Vernon. The two later collaborated.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver is the long-awaited follow-up to For Emma. At its core, the new album is a folky gem that probably shouldn't be called "folk." Instrumentally, its arrangements are orchestral and complex but somehow come off as breezy. Vernon's lyrical themes can be foreboding and disjunctive at times, but his ghostly delivery keeps each song intact. Bon Iver, Bon Iver is a beautiful anomaly that deserves
repeated listens.

See Bon Iver live at Spreckels Theatre September 16.

For fans of: Wilco, Ben Harper, Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes
Standout tracks: Halocene, Towers

RATING KEY
* = Meh
***** = Hell Yeah!

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