Easily one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation, Rufus Wainwright exceeds his debut album's promise with Poses, his 2001 sophomore release. This time, he deepens his exceptional command of classically influenced melody while adding greater lyrical nuance. Poses presents Wainwright's unique mixture of boyish innocence and urbane sophistication in an array of pop and rock settings. From the harmony-bathed rush of "California" to the piano-driven bounce of "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," he ascends his gorgeously wrought tunes with near-operatic grace. His special forte is slow flowing Spanish rhythms, as evidenced in the evocative title track. Rufus is equally adept at outside material. He fills Loudin Wainwright III"s "One Man Guy" with gentle self-mockery, while his version of the Beatles' "Across the Universe" shimmers with yearning. Producer Pierre Marchand surrounds Wainwright with tracks elegantly rococo in spots, cleanly rendered in others. It all combines to make Poses a work of rare artistry and sly charm.