MICHELE NORRIS, host:

It's an annual rite this time of year, the critics' list of the year's best - best movies, best books, best music. And our colleagues at NPR's online music show, All Songs Considered, are busy putting together a list of the year's best new music. And they're asking listeners to go online and vote for their favorites. Bob Boilen is the host of All Songs Considered, and he's here to give us a little preview of what's on that list so far. Good to talk with you again, Bob.

BOB BOILEN: Hello, there.

NORRIS: And Bob, what kind of trends do you see so far?

BOILEN: This is an odd year. Usually, every year, you find those bands that you know and love are usually near the top. I've never seen this before but this year, some of the bands that are at the top are bands that have put out their first record in 2008, and that's pretty remarkable. Vampire Weekend, we talked about them this summer. We talked about a fellow named Bon Iver and then a group called Fleet Foxes all doing really, really well, beating out things like My Morning Jacket, beating out things like Death Cab for Cutie, and beating out another band from Brooklyn, New York, TV on the Radio. When this record came out, TV On The Radio, I ran downstairs and plopped that on your desk, and I love this record.

NORRIS: I do, too. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of song "Halfway Home")

TV ON THE RADIO: (Singing) The lazy way they turned your head, Into a rest stop for the dead. And did it all, In gold and blue and gray.

NORRIS: Well, the wonderful thing about these, kind of, online polls is that listeners have their say. So what else is up near the top of that list?

BOILEN: Well, you know those bands I was saying that are all debut records, a lot of them are very introspective records. And one band from Portland is called Blitzen Trapper. I just love this. They sometimes remind me a little bit of The Grateful Dead.

NORRIS: So it's not only introspective, it's retrospective.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BOILEN: That's very true. Why don't we listen to the song? The song is called "Furr," F-U-R-R, and it's the title track from Blitzen Trapper.

(Soundbite of song "Furr")

BLITZEN TRAPPER: (Singing) So I stood and looked about. I brushed the leaves off of my snout. And then I heard my mother shouting through the trees. You should have seen that girl go shaky at the knees. So I took her by the arm, We settled down upon a farm. And raised our children up as gently as you please.

NORRIS: Well, you've already mentioned that you love TV On The Radio, but is there another listener pick that you're quietly pulling for?

BOILEN: My surprise record of the year are two artists who I've loved. They hadn't made a record together in 27 years - David Byrne, Talking Heads; Brian Eno, producer of Talking Heads for a while. And the two of them came out with a surprise. They made a record. And these are songs that are full of hope. And there's a very gospelly sound to many of them, and it's right on target and right on time.

(Soundbite of song "Life Is Long")

Mr. DAVID BYRNE: (Singing) Everybody says that the living is easy. I can barely see 'cause my head's in the way. Tigers walk behind me, they are to remind me, That I'm lost, but I'm not afraid, oh, Soul to soul, a kiss and a sigh...

NORRIS: So Bob, before we let you go, if our listeners want to weigh in with their picks, how do they do that?

BOILEN: I hope they do. It's at nprmusic.org, and then there'll be a link that takes you to the polls, 100 choices. You get to choose 10 of your favorite records of the year, and the polls close on Sunday. And Monday, we'll have the results.

NORRIS: All right, that's Bob Boilen of NPR's All Songs Considered. And just a reminder, Bob will be back next week after the voting is over to tell us what NPR listeners thought were the best records of 2008.

(Soundbite of song "Life Is Long")

Mr. BYRNE: (Singing) Life is long if you give it away. So stay, don't go, 'cause I'm fading away. Soul to soul between you and me, Chain me down, but I am still free.

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