Musically speaking, Yo La Tengo’s eighth album, 1997’s ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One,’ is the New Jersey trio’s most expansive. Its wide-open playground of styles, sounds and genres helps explain why the record ranks among the group’s most popular. It’s also the band’s warmest record at that point, a soft coming down after the previous two LPs’ creative highlights. Nothing sounds forced on ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One,’ not even the 10-minute space jam.

Yo La Tengo had been building to this. Even before 1993’s ‘Painful’ and 1995’s ‘Electr-O-Pura,’ two landmarks of ‘90s indie rock, the band began straying from the filtered noise and jagged art-rock of its earlier records. But on ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One,’ which they recorded in Nashville, they shift genres from song to song, trying on everything from electronic hums and folk rock to beach pop, shoegazing noise and ‘60s bachelor-pad music.

And it all falls together with effortless warmth. Check out the minute-and-a-half opening instrumental, ‘Return to Hot Chicken’ or the boss nova-biting ‘Autumn Sweater,’ one of Yo La Tengo’s all-time greatest singles. Even the covers – the Beach Boys’ ‘Little Honda’ and the album’s closer, ‘My Little Corner of the World,’ a Top 10 hit for Anita Bryant in 1960 – sound like they fit into ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One’’s bigger picture.

Even though the album – which celebrates its 16th anniversary today -- was widely praised by critics and adored by indie-music fans, it didn’t chart. (The band didn’t crack the Top 200 until their next record, 2000’s ‘And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out.’) But no matter: This is indie rock at its most pure and human. And it’s the best place to start to hear Yo La Tengo at their most open and open-minded.

Listen to Yo La Tengo's 'Autumn Sweater'