Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he writes the advice column The Good Listener, fusses over the placement of commas and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the weekly NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk.

In 1993, Thompson founded The Onion's entertainment section, The A.V. Club, which he edited until December 2004. In the years since, he has provided music-themed commentaries for the NPR programs Weekend Edition Sunday, All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the first member of the NPR Music staff ever to sing on an NPR newsmagazine. (Later, the magic of AutoTune transformed him from a 12th-rate David Archuleta into a fourth-rate Cher.) Thompson's entertainment writing has also run in Paste magazine, The Washington Post and The London Guardian.

During his tenure at The Onion, Thompson edited the 2002 book The Tenacity Of The Cockroach: Conversations With Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders (Crown) and copy-edited six best-selling comedy books. While there, he also coached The Onion's softball team to a sizzling 21-42 record, and was once outscored 72-0 in a span of 10 innings. Later in life, Thompson redeemed himself by teaming up with the small gaggle of fleet-footed twentysomethings who won the 2008 NPR Relay Race, a triumph he documents in a hard-hitting essay for the book This Is NPR: The First Forty Years (Chronicle).

A 1994 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Thompson now lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his two children, his girlfriend, their four cats and a room full of vintage arcade machines. His hobbies include watching reality television without shame, eating Pringles until his hand has involuntarily twisted itself into a gnarled claw, using the size of his Twitter following to assess his self-worth, touting the immutable moral superiority of the Green Bay Packers and maintaining a fierce rivalry with all Midwestern states other than Wisconsin.

Already an industry veteran at 20, Rosie Carney writes songs that feel lived-in and worn, conveying a bruised ache well beyond her years. The Irish singer-songwriter has been letting singles trickle out for a few years now, and her latest, "Your Moon," strikes a sure-footed balance between airy tenderness and coolly jazzy melancholy.

Recorded under the name Novo Amor, Ali Lacey's music weaves together many exquisite strands, from gently picked acoustic guitars to subtle but moving strings. Still, no facet of Lacey's sound is more delicate than his soft, airy, fragile falsetto.

This isn't the easiest time to enter the job market, especially not when so many opportunities are drying up in fields ranging from coal mining to retail.

Prince died one year ago today, and for the first anniversary, fans had been told to expect six new songs, as part of an EP titled Deliverance. The first single, also called "Deliverance," is a soaring, stirring mix of rock and gospel.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "KISS")

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page

Kendrick Lamar's victory lap continues. The rapper closed the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Sunday night — like most Coachella performers, he'll return at the same time next weekend — with a set that blew through social media thanks to live-streaming and widespread interest in his new material.

When Future Islands singer Samuel T. Herring performs, he mixes vein-bulging intensity with a curious kind of smoothness — the kind that, when it accompanies sweet dance moves, can launch a thousand GIFs in a single hip-sway.

Jack White has made countless contributions to rock 'n' roll: with The White Stripes, with The Raconteurs, with The Dead Weather, as a label owner and musical preservationist, as a solo artist.

Maybe you heard it too: murmurs of a "new Beyoncé song," accompanied by whatever it is that gasping and genuflecting sounds like when transmitted via Twitter and Facebook, then the purr of a song playing through the headphones of the devoted everywhere, begun, as in a round, at slightly different moments.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

While Linda Holmes was finishing the first draft of her novel while vacationing in the bucolic wonderland of rural Virginia, the rest of us were left to assemble an episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour without her. So Glen Weldon and I tackled a pair of pop-cultural entities who've freshly returned from varying degrees of absence — namely Dave Chappelle, who on March 22 released a pair of stand-up specials via Netflix, and CHiPs, the late-'70s and early-'80s cop show that's just seen a big-screen reboot.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

On July 2, Adele will make the final stop on a 15-month tour to support her 2015 blockbuster 25. The tour certainly hasn't hurt: Far and away the best-selling album of recent years — it was top seller of 2015 and 2016, and no other record came close — 25 also won the Grammy for Album Of The Year back in February.

For more than a decade, the members of The Builders And The Butchers have specialized in a kind of white-knuckle Americana: Their acoustic folk-rock sound is shot through with nervy, hellfire-and-brimstone intensity.

It's been about 10 years since Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan made his U.S. debut with The End Of History, a Mercury Prize-nominated collection of soft-spoken acoustic folk-pop songs in the tradition of Damien Rice and Nick Drake.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

"We're gonna play a whole bunch of new songs for you," said Amelia Meath as she introduced her electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso, adding, "because we're tired of playing the old ones."

For Big Thief, fragility and power come inextricably intertwined. Singer and guitarist Adrianne Lenker may let her songs sit and seethe for long stretches, but those slow builds only maximize the catharsis of the big, loud, high-volume bursts of force that follow.

When PWR BTTM takes the stage, it doesn't take long to figure out what you're going to get. From the first glitter-smeared seconds of the set-opening "Silly," the band came to shred and swagger with infectious joy, complete with backbends and solos and spangly outfits — at least one of which wouldn't survive the band's set at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, recorded live for NPR Music Wednesday night.

If you've only heard Lizzo's hit "Good As Hell" — and if you haven't, listen now, I'll wait — you might think the Twin Cities singer is a funny and ingratiating but fairly straightforward purveyor of self-affirmation and charismatic confidence. But as her joyful and explosive live show unfolded, complete with the arrival of the ecstatic backup dancers she calls "The Big Girls," it became clear that Lizzo has something more powerful going on.

"I'm ready for the world," Alynda Lee Segarra sings in the chorus of the rousing "Hungry Ghost" — and her band's set told that simple truth again and again. In the past seven or eight years, Hurray For The Riff Raff has blossomed slowly but fully, transforming its sound from intense-but-delicate one-woman bedroom recordings to the rip-roaring full-band jams that dominated the group's set at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, recorded live for NPR Music Wednesday night.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Camae Ayewa, who records under the name Moor Mother, doesn't waste time. The Philly-based artist and agitator stuffs every moment of her densely packed, combative songs with unease and piercing static — that she doesn't allow listeners a moment of peace or rest can only be part of the point.

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