- Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright's self-titled 1998 debut sounded, and still sounds, like nothing else. Owing as much to cabaret songs and pre-rock pop as the music of his famous folkie parents' generation, its lush orchestration, literate songwriting, and sweepingly romantic vision felt at once unexpected and long overdue. Poses opens with a welcome round of more-of-the-same: "Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk" sounds like the best song Wainwright forgot to include on his debut, but also provides a glimpse of what's to come. "Everything it seems I like's a little bit stronger, a little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me," Wainwright sings in the chorus, setting up an album where pleasure-seeking Epicureanism has its limitations, which its inhabitants mostly have the good taste not to notice. A cycle of songs on the subject of being young, gay, beautiful, and in love (even if it's only in love with being young, gay, and beautiful), Poses has the conviction to sweep listeners into its vision, deepened by a melancholy streak that grows more pronounced as the album progresses. More ambitious in its structure, and more refined in its lyrics, Poses also finds Wainwright in the mood to experiment musically. "Greek Song" includes some lovely Eastern flourishes, while "Shadows" (co-written by Propellerheads' Alex Gifford) and "California" feature rhythm tracks that at first seem jarringly contemporary, but eventually fade into the fabric of the album. As before, absolute consistency eludes Wainwright. Some mid-album selections suffer in comparison to standouts like the title track and the future sing-along "One Man Guy." But, also as before, his unique gifts make it difficult to mind. Wainwright should enjoy a long, beautiful career, which should give him time to learn consistency.