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, 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.

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Music
8:26 am
Tue March 3, 2015

The Austin 100: A SXSW 2015 Mix

Emma-Lee Moss, a.k.a. Emmy The Great.
Joseph Okpako Redferns via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 11:58 pm

There's a lot of music on this page β€” 100 songs, to be exact, each from an artist worth discovering at this year's SXSW Music Festival. It represents more than six genre-defying hours of music.

Still, we started out with far more to choose from. It took an enormous amount of effort to get here: Thousands of acts play SXSW each year, enough that winnowing them down to 100 required months of seeking, listening, culling and decision-making. What remains are some of SXSW 2015's most thrilling discoveries and highlights.

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SXSW Music Festival
6:08 am
Tue March 3, 2015

The Austin 100

To get ready for SXSW, we listened to A LOT of music. Check out the app we made β€” and use it to make your own mix!
NPR

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 5:32 pm

Put on your headphones and listen to NPR Music's 100 picks from SXSW 2015.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

First Listen
2:38 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Review: Purity Ring, 'Another Eternity'

Purity Ring's new album, Another Eternity, comes out March 3.
Renata Raksha Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 10:44 pm

When Purity Ring released its debut album Shrines back in 2012, it came bundled with some of the most ill-defined genre signifiers imaginable, from chillwave to the band's self-deployed "future pop" to the even-less-meaningful "witch house." Now that the Edmonton duo is back with a follow-up, it's time to call it what it is: Like its predecessor, Another Eternity dispenses some of the most ingratiating electro-pop around, simple as that.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun February 15, 2015

Review: Screaming Females, 'Rose Mountain'

Screaming Females' new album, Rose Mountain, comes out Feb. 24.
Lance Bangs Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 10:54 pm

For 10 years, Screaming Females' music has come wailing out of the scruffiest and homiest of venues β€” basements across its home state of New Jersey, house shows from coast to coast, even NPR's Tiny Desk β€” in a ragged style befitting the band's lean, raw, punk-informed rock.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Sat February 14, 2015

The Good Listener: Is It OK To Attend A Concert On A First Date?

Jeez, people. The guy with the acoustic guitar is trying to perform right behind you. Get a room, would you?
iStockphoto.com

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the boxes of chocolate we bought ourselves to eat alone in the dark on Valentine's Day is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives β€” and, this week, thoughts on the collision of concert etiquette and first-date etiquette.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun February 8, 2015

Review: Pops Staples, 'Don't Lose This'

Pops Staples' new album, Don't Lose This, comes out Feb. 17.
Paul Natkin Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 11:01 pm

As the patriarch of the Staple Singers, Roebuck "Pops" Staples presided over some of the most crucial music of the 20th century, as his family band lent a righteous soundtrack to the Civil Rights Movement, crafted song standards ("Respect Yourself," "I'll Take You There," et al) and functioned as a cross-genre conscience that spanned soul, gospel, blues, folk and rock music.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Sat February 7, 2015

The Good Listener: How Can I Avoid Love Songs?

When it seems like every song on earth is about love or its absence, the heartsick need a strategy.
iStockphoto.com

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the pheromone-laced collars we ordered in the hopes that our cats will stop acting like jerks is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives β€” and, this week, thoughts on how the heartsick can avoid songs about love, sex and desire.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Sat January 24, 2015

The Good Listener: If You Don't Like Music, Do You Have A Soul?

Music isn't for everyone.
Cristian Casanelles iStockphoto

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the tiara we ordered as the grand prize at our upcoming eating contest is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives β€” and, this week, thoughts on people who simply don't enjoy music.

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All Songs Considered
2:03 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Playing SXSW 2015? Send Us Your Songs

Ana Tijoux was a big part of NPR Music's SXSW 2014 coverage. Now, we're preparing for this year's festival.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 28, 2015 1:10 pm

Every year around this time, many of us on the All Songs Considered team β€” including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me β€” each dredge through nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of bands, hundreds slip past our radar altogether.

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Music
7:03 am
Wed January 21, 2015

'We Can't Just Settle': Broad City Meets Sleater-Kinney

Ebru Yildiz for NPR

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 11:54 am

In a raucous and revealing panel discussion at New York City's Ace Hotel, the stars and creators of Comedy Central's Broad City interviewed all three members of the newly reunited rock band Sleater-Kinney Friday night.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun January 18, 2015

First Listen: The Lone Bellow, 'Then Came The Morning'

The Lone Bellow's new album, Then Came The Morning, comes out Jan. 27.
Steven Sebring Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 12:09 pm

The Lone Bellow isn't the first modern band to traffic in grandiose folk-rock uplift, but it's already among the best.

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Music
5:15 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Thievery Corporation: All Things Considered's In-House Band For A Day

All Things Considered director Monika Evstatieva offers a little last-minute advice to the day's in-house band, Thievery Corporation.
Morgan McCloy NPR

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 6:32 pm

If you listen to NPR's newsmagazines, short bits of instrumental music often provide the connective tissue linking one story to the next. We call them buttons or breaks or deadrolls, and each is chosen by the show's director that day. Sometimes the selections make a sly reference to the story they follow β€” say, a snippet of "Baby Elephant Walk" after a story about elephants β€” but more often they're there to capture, enhance or brighten the mood while helping the listener differentiate between news pieces.

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First Listen
11:03 pm
Sun January 11, 2015

First Listen: Belle And Sebastian, 'Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance'

Belle And Sebastian's new album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, comes out Jan. 20.
Søren Solkær Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 10:29 am

Nine albums into a career spanning two decades, Belle And Sebastian resides at a tricky point in its career: Veteran musicians often shed fans rather than accumulating them, as tastes shift, the fickle lose interest and diehards succumb to distractions.

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Monkey See
9:25 am
Thu January 8, 2015

'Archer' And The Loud Comfort Of Rhythm

Sterling Archer (voice of H. Jon Benjamin) and Lana Kane (voice of Aisha Tyler) rarely look quite this uncomplicatedly happy.
FX

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 3:35 pm

[This piece assumes you've seen the first five seasons of Archer, which contain quite the pileup of plot developments, so: beware.]

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All Songs Considered
10:03 am
Mon December 22, 2014

Dessa: Something Old And Something New, Suitable For Choir

Dessa recently reworked two of her songs with Minnesota's VocalEssence choir.
Kelly Loverud Courtesy of the artist

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The Best Music Of 2014
1:38 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

2014: The Year In Tiny Desk Concerts

T-Pain's Tiny Desk Concert has been viewed 6.6 million times on YouTube alone.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 5:11 pm

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All Songs Considered
7:53 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Stephen Thompson's Top 10 Albums Of 2014

Beyonce unleashed the year's grandest and most enduring pop juggernaut (even if it technically came out in 2013).
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 10:15 am

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All Songs Considered
10:03 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Song Premiere: San Fermin, 'Parasites'

Ellis Ludwig-Leone of San Fermin.
Denny Renshaw Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed July 8, 2015 11:59 am

San Fermin's self-titled 2013 debut is an intricately composed set of impeccable chamber-folk songs, written in solitude by Ellis Ludwig-Leone and performed by a small army of highly trained ringers. By the time the album came out, Ludwig-Leone had already written a sequel in a similar spirit.

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First Listen
11:09 pm
Sun November 23, 2014

First Listen: She & Him, 'Classics'

She & Him's new album, Classics, comes out Dec. 2.
Autumn De Wilde Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 10:43 am

Back in 2011, an album called A Very She & Him Christmas joined the eternal glut of holiday music. As might be expected, it featured a string of agreeably executed staples β€” "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree," "Silver Bells," et al β€” played with timeless impeccability by the duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.

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