Cousins of the Wize

If there's one way that Cousins of the Wize's second album, The Art of Living, suffers, it's in poor track sequencing. There's a lot to like here, from the radio-ready "Two Bottles of Beer" to the instrumental "Spaghetti Western," which could easily be subbed into the Kill Bill soundtrack without Quentin Tarantino batting an eye. Unfortunately, you'll have to dig through a few sub-par tracks before getting to them. "The Art of Living," the opener, is about as melodramatic as its name implies. It's followed by "Cruise Control," which breaks my first rule of hip-hop: Unless you're Snoop D-O-Double-G, no self-references. Sure, there are a few examples of sub-par rap trappings — like an attempt to rhyme "grays" with "glass" — but they're easy to look past. The band covers a wide array of styles — hinting at reggae, jazz, rock and even a little electronica — but Jeremy Decoster's saxophone carries you from track to track. It's the most identifiable element in the Cousins of the Wize sound, whether it's screeching high notes or running almost-growled strings of eighth notes. Hip-hop fans looking for a little something extra will appreciate the band's range of instruments — if they can get past those two opening tracks.


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