Feeling Mortal, by Kris Kristofferson

It’s easy to write Kris Kristofferson off as another country songwriter trawling the shallows of whiskey, diesels and cornpone imagery. But that’s a myopic read of the Rhodes scholar, William Blake devotee, Golden Gloves boxer and helicopter pilot.

The Beautiful Old, by various artists

This project by producers Paul Mar­steller and Gabriel Rhodes is an ad­mirable tribute to pre–World War I popular music. Each singer is accompanied only by instruments from the song’s period. Richard Thomson’s sly baritone curls around “The Band Played On” like a handlebar mustache, while Graham Parker tackles “The Flying Trapeze” with saloon-and-sarsaparilla panache.

I Have Big Plans for the World, by Beki Hemingway

The latest six-song effort by Beki Hemingway—a distant relative of Ernest—finds her in fine voice, singing with a poised balance of tough and tender. And she has an able partner in husband-guitarist Randy Kerkman, who coproduces this disc.

Fade, by Yo La Tengo

Many bands have combined minimalist composition with maximalist guitar noise. Yo La Tengo does this best, carrying on without so much as a chord change while guitarist Ira Kaplan screeches and wails away. But the trio also stands out because this is far from its only trick. YLT brings an encyclopedia of influences and a knack for moody, tasteful arranging.