Album review: Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Crown and Treaty

SINCE his band’s second album was nominated for the Mercury Prize, Tim Elsenburg – a songwriter who rhymes words like “parenthesis” and mentions Jesus Christ and Charlemagne in the same sentence – has moved on in leaps and bounds.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim

Crown And Treaty

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Luxor) £10.99

Rating: ****

The second song in, Archaeology, magnificently digs up the past to dust down 10cc and Stevie Wonder, and embrace both the classic and very modern in the same bar. “The wind replies in drunken semitones” is perhaps the best line on the record, laid off against a lopsided syncopated rhythm.

The genie nearly escapes the bottle in the near conventional keyboard and guitar introduction to Kracklite, with its muted horns off and contorted riffing. But things take an interesting nautical twist on the penultimate Shadow Captain, leaving the squeeze boxes bobbing in the surf as it larks about in a madrigal meadow.

New guitarist and vocalist Jana Carpenter fleshes out the sound and makes Elsenburg seem less isolated but somehow more vulnerable. Geographically this is hard music to pin down – there are elements of the light English classical tradition in Arrived At Upside Down, broken up by superb electric guitar burblings in the style of Robert Quine, and wrapped up in a warm, life-affirming coda. A less dogged and dreary companion to Elbow, Sweet Billy Pilgrim are one of Britain’s better bands of the moment.

Download this: Archaeology, Kracklite