Rufus Wainwright, The Past and the Present

Rufus Wainwright, The Past and the Present
"I can't do everything," confesses Rufus Wainwright. "A large part of making a record is letting go, and thinking of the song as a song and not as your baby." Poses, Wainwright's follow-up to his acclaimed self-titled debut, continues his ambitiously arranged orchestral pop approach, but also finds him experimenting with polyrhythms and sonic textures. With the exception of the world beat-flavoured "Greek Song" and two others, Rufus selected songs written specifically within the last couple of years to record on this album. He again turned to long-time collaborator Pierre Marchand, best known for his work with Sarah McLachlan, who also had produced his earliest demos as a teenager as well as his Dreamworks debut. The two "holed up" for several month at Morin Heights studio in Quebec, recording the basic instrumental and vocal tracks, and co-writing the album's many string arrangements together. Rufus credits Marchand with "making the sound ethereal and big, where it's leading the pack."

Despite the impressive circle of musicians included on Poses (including sister Martha on vocals, Richard Thompson's son Teddy on guitar and Jim Keltner on drums), Rufus remains focused on his voice and the strength of his songs. "What's always interested me more than what's the newest sound, or the most cutting edge thing is, is how does this [song] last for 500 years?"

A self-acknowledged musical snob who listens primarily to Western art music such as Gustav Mahler, Wainwright remains drawn to the art of storytelling. He reverentially covers his father Loudon Wainwright's song "One Man Guy," calling it a "classic" he hopes will "earn its rightful place as a really great song." Among several of his own standout tracks on the album is one called "California," a hilarious and biting commentary about a scene he remains slightly intimidated of.
"I was never into the pop world, per se, as a kid," he admits, and his recent contributions to Kate & Anna McGarrigle's (his mom and aunt, respectively) brilliant McGarrigle Hour recording confirms his connection to, and admiration of older songs. "It's difficult to keep the line between the past and the present," begins "Grey Gardens"; does that quote represent the creative tension in his own music making? "Growing up with that folk music, singing when I was 13 with Emmylou Harris, that experience was crucial. I'm not trying to break away from [the past], I'm just trying to fuck it up a little!"