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.

Up Like the Clouds by Dubl Handi

Banjo player Hilary Hawke has displayed her fine chops and deep folk foundations in several ensembles. Here she pares things down to a duo, but the sound isn’t all that spare.

Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, by Billy Bragg and Wilco

On Mermaid Avenue (1998), Billy Bragg and Wilco wrote and recorded music for some of the 3,000 tuneless lyrics Woody Guthrie left behind. The stunning result was so much more than a reverent, Pete-Seeger-and-friends tribute album could ever be: the great Guthrie expanded in our cultural imagination and introduced to a new generation.