Talented chamber pop troubadour Rufus Wainwright followed up his startlingly fresh debut album with the 2001 release Poses. While his self-titled first album was very much a work by Wainwright (aided by his contributing producers), Poses seems to be more of a group effort, with the young composer allowing the other performers on the album to lend their talents, creating an even fuller, more "live" sound. Both Wainwright's younger sister Martha and son of British folk near-legends Richard and Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson contribute harmony vocals which soar above Rufus' affecting moan like the choir he must hear in his head. Produced by Pierre Marchand (Sarah McLachlan), the album continues the same outstretched, enveloping sound established by Wainwright's earlier work, but contributors like contemporary composer Damian le Gassick and Propellerheads' Alex Gifford push in different directions, adding understated drum loops and gritty beats in unexpected places. Above all of the studio gimcrackery and pedigreed guest stars floats Wainwright himself, whose introspective, wry, and heart-wrenching songwriting remains his true strength (although his leisurely operatic tenor is not far behind). The clunking, loping "Greek Song" evokes the sprawl of an impossible Ingmar Bergman spaghetti Western, while the swaggering "California" shows a sunny exterior masking the song's satirical sneer. Amidst this sonic barrage, a high point comes in the cover of patriarch Loudon Wainwright III's "One Man Guy." Performed by Rufus, Martha, and Teddy Thompson's simple acoustic guitar, these three grown children of the '70s folk movement embrace the song faithfully, basking in their own harmonies and offering a respite from the blissfully lush orchestral pop that surrounds it. While Poses shows growth and worthwhile exploration, the album's "group" feel suffers only slightly from being less intimate than Wainwright's first album. Although his contributors add much, there was something blushingly personal about his debut that may have gotten a little buried this time around. That being said, Poses is still a spectacular album, brimming over with Wainwright's trademark popera and young romantic wishes. At times the album is beautifully discordant and sonically chilling, but often hints at warm grins with mischievous winks.
AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson