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"Dressed in khaki shorts and loose white shirt, streaks of silver in his beard, Aidan Moffat's feeling his age tonight. "I've got a sair back from touring, years of bending down picking up bottles," grumbles Falkirk's vulgar versifier with the dry wit of a wisecracking club singer.

The Mercury prize panel should look no further for its outsider pick this year than Everything's Getting Older, the former Arab Strap frontman's collaboration with Bill Wells, a skilful jazz multi-instrumentalist who has made his home amid the Scottish indie community, working with the likes of Isobel Campbell and the Pastels. Setting Moffat's half-spoken, half-sung laments to mournful piano and muted trumpet, their songs are a revelation realised here with a tumbledown grace that not even the double-bass player snapping a string can thwart. "One less fee to pay," quips Moffat.

Penned as he approaches 40, the career inebriate's words unfold like short stories reflecting wistfully and humorously on mid-life as a pint glass half-full. Binges, brawls and bonking are familiar subjects for Moffat, but he approaches them with a sharpened tongue - set to a sampled lounge-funk groove, Glasgow Jubilee unflinchingly describes an interlinking stream of sad sexual trysts in which Moffat's "lonely solipsist" is cast aside just like every other character. Life's great immutabilities are newer themes. Set after a funeral, the twinkling The Copper Top could draw a tear from a corpse with its bittersweet observation "birth, love and death: the only reasons to get dressed up", while The Greatest Story Ever Told's gentle invitation to not be overwhelmed by our inherent insignificance in the universe is shrewdly uplifting.

If there's a message, it's to embrace life in its totality while you still can: its triumphs, its tragedies, its ribald idiosyncrasies. "This one," says Moffat as he introduces a new song come the encore, "is about dressing up as a vicar and shagging someone at a party.""