Rufus Wainwright - ‘Want One’ (Dreamworks)

19 Jan 2004

cult solo-songwriter with graceful, latest release; release - '03.
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Rufus Wainwright - 'Want One'

There's a lot of 'em, these folk: Ed Harcourt; Damien Rice; Beth Orton; Sondre Lerche; Carina Round; Gemma Hayes; Ron Sexsmith; Jason Mraz; Norah Jones; Regina Spektor; erm, David Gray.

... That is to say - a lot of solo-y muso-types. Although fashion-mag pretensions would lead you to believe that the whole sanctum of 'em are bed-wetting, hankie-clinging depressives in need of a decent screw, the vast majority (OK, save for Gray) are conjuring a mould unique to solely their own: dreamy, romantic songsmiths, where their teary-eyed sensitivity, sentimentality and penchant for storytelling more than oft results in a classic album or five.

Oh yeah - and there's Rufus Wainwright, who slides all too perfectly into this category - a US-born solo-act currently working the third album; in his case, the orchestral, wistful likes of 'Want One'.

And, blimey, what a belter. If it isn't his angelic warble - a Don McLean meets Thom Yorke, harmonic wail - providing the highlight, then it's the lavishly expansive choir-sections and orchestral-exertions rendering the project's soul - all while produced and slick, yet never compromising the bite.

Most obscure is the repetitive, coming-to-terms thundering of 'Oh What A World', whilst the rest of the album segues and glides into each piece with diligent heart and equal, rapt intensity; we defy you to attempt sitting in the vicinity of the bite-sized 'Vicious World' or hammering elevation of 'Movies Of Myself' and not shed a tear of gleeful abandon, whilst the stark piano-vocal combo of 'Pretty Things' may just prove too much for the easily wooed.

When the product becomes epic - a six-minute-thirty-eight second 'Go Or Go Ahead', which builds from a minimalist, acoustic-lilt, into a gospel-y eruption of teeming, unified voices - it's conducted with an acumen of both skill and class, a warming lack of crassness, and simultaneous dashing of innocence. The charm elsewhere ('My phone's on vibrate for you...'), timeless, smoky-roomed classicism ('Harvester Of Hearts') and country-like introspection ('Want', '11:11') cohesively warrant perhaps one of the most quietly prestigious and engrossing singer-songwriters of our time.

Intimacy enlaced with a spirit of the magnanimous, 'Want One' is tender, intelligent and a record poised for repeat-plays. Fortunately, its sequel is just on the horizon - but Wainwright is gonna have to travel some distance to even so much as rival this sumptuous piece of star-gazing dream-pop.

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