Audio: ‘Joy Maker Machinery’

There are several very obscure acts on this year’s Mercury shortlist, but perhaps none more so than the Buckinghamshire trio Sweet Billy Pilgrim. The story is great: Twice Born Men (their second album) was recorded in a shed, funded by selling stuff on eBay; and Tim Elsenburg — the band’s singer, songwriter and producer, who is an office maintenance man by trade — was fitting a toilet seat when he found out about their Mercury nomination. I warmed to them just from reading that, before I’d even heard a note.

And now I have listened to the album… it’s extraordinary. Sweet Billy PIlgrim recall Elbow in some places and even Sigur Rós in others, but their vision is all their own. Twice Born Men is full of rustic, homespun songs that blossom into big, expansive epics. Elsenburg has a charming croon, and the music is full of interesting quirks — if there’s an actual kitchen sink on there, I wouldn’t be surprised.

There’s only one song here that I think is below par (‘Longshore Drift’, which never quite takes off as the others do), which is unfortunate when, with eight tracks, the album doesn’t really have room to put a foot wrong. But the rest is great, and you should check these guys out — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Video: ‘Kalypso’ (live)

Read my other Mercury Prize 2009 posts here.