The "as voted by NPR listeners" qualification is very important, because NPR listeners evidently do not listen to any pop, rock, or country.
Instead, all of the music is what I would classify as either alternative, indie, or (possibly) singer/songwriter (the one arguable exception is The National at #2 - I think they're considered pretty mainstream). The choices vary from really good to really bad.
457. I may have asked this in connection with last December's end-of-year and end-of-decade lists, but do any NPR listeners vote for pop or country songs? Or is the NPR Music site kind of like Fox (for conservatives) or MSNBC (for liberals), in that it only attracts a very particular segment of music listeners? I would think there'd be at least some people like me who would like some indie music but would also like the more widespread songs.
I shouldn't be too critical, because I actually really enjoy listening to Boilen's analyses of the music and I discover some music that I otherwise never would. It does, though, play into the caricature of NPR as a bit on the elitist side.
My favorite of the pieces I've heard so far on Boilen's podcast is Mumford & Sons's The Cave, from the album Sigh No More. The song is interesting but accessible: it's actually got a recognizable melody and a catchy beat. I don't understand what the lyrics mean and I like that. I also like the change in pace at different parts of the song.
Illustrative of the non-accessible choices are LCD Soundsystem and Gorillaz. I read about Gorillaz on Wikipedia and it sounds like their idea is to be quite conceptual (the band members are not real people), which is fine as far as it goes but the music is lacking.
Somewhere in the middle is Broken Bells's The High Road: I like the chorus ("it's too late to change your mind, you let loss be your guide") and the two singers' voices together, but it's more of an alternatively-pretty style than a song I'd listen to once a day for three straight weeks while shaving.