Dreamworks – 2001 – 53 minutes

In 1999, a year after the release of his eponymous debut album, Montreal singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright predicted that its follow-up would be "great". In a climate where such conceited claims soak the atmosphere like a thunderstorm, it was a declaration that was easy to dismiss. Mr Wainwright, however, wasn't exaggerating.

A throwback to an era when strong lyrics and melody were all-important, 'Poses' finds Wainwright, son of Loudon Wainwright III, in inspired form. After the Vaudevillian cabaret of his debut, junior has scaled down the histrionics to provide an album of thoughtful, delicately crafted folk-rock.

Drenched in piano and some inventive string arrangements, 'Poses' kicks off with a strong five-track stretch, punctuated by the touching introspection of the album's title track. A lull ensues in the middle of the album before 'Evil Angel', 'In A Graveyard' and, in particular, 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk' bring the album to an uplifting close. Throughout, this collection is infused with a rare charm and wit, magnified by Wainright's sharp lyrical touch and vocal melodies.

There are very few albums that one can enjoy in the solitude of the small hours, as well as the brightness of the next morning. Isolation or company, darkness or daytime, 'Poses' is an all-rounder. As a purveyor of narcissistic songs of life and love, Wainright has raised the ante. Papa must be proud.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk – Greek Song – Poses – Shadows – California – The Tower Of Learning – Grey Gardens – Rebel Prince – The Consort – One Man Guy – Evil Angel – In A Graveyard – Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise)