The Bluetones: Return To The Last Chance Saloon (Superior Quality Recordings, below) The crisis of confidence that surrounded this second album by the Hounslow champs occasionally surfaces in songs like "If", but there's never less than enough flesh on The Bluetones' pop grooves, with the cowboy metaphor adding a bizarre twist. If with debut album Expecting To Fly they were optimistic freshers, this is their triumphant graduation ceremony HHHH

Lilys: Better Can't Make Your Life Better (Che)

You've bought the jeans - now buy the album! Or perhaps not. At less than three minutes long, the pastiche Sixties crankings of "A Nanny In Manhattan" in the current Levi's ad is worth a chuckle, but when their whole album is "groovy" beatpop bric a brac, you despair at the sheer gauche nature of it all. They - along with their bizarre lyrics and divebombing falsettos - deserve to go the same way as Stiltskin. HH

Various Artists: Erotica Italia (Bistro)

Just ponder this - album compiler Martin Green went through the trouble of rooting through dozens of soundtracks to soft-porno films from the Sixties and Seventies, just to delight you with... a panting female, set to bongo drums. Groan. This blue-tinged easy-listening voyage has its moments, but it's just trying to keep the lounge-pop scene alive a little longer. HH

Tortoise: TNT (City Slang)

Not so much an album as War & Peace, it's so long and vast. The Tortoise opus is maybe one and half hours long, but these aren't mindless, clinical sub-Krautrock churnings. Their shifting electronic landscape of jazz, drum 'n' bass and techno textures are nothing less than earnest, articulate and enchanting. It's brain food, utterly lacking in cynicism, and will be one of the finest releases this year. HHHH