Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he curates Song of the Day, fusses over the placement of commas and appears as a frequent panelist on the podcasts All Songs Considered and Pop Culture Happy Hour. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the weekly 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, Weekend All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the only 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 forthcoming anthology 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 and a Frogger machine. 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.

Pages

All Songs Considered
10:50 am
Fri November 15, 2013

The Good Listener: Is There Too Much Music?

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the whale-sedatives we ordered to help us endure the Green Bay Packers' losing streak is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how to handle the desire to take a break from music.

Read more
All Songs Considered
2:02 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

The Good Listener: The Right And Wrong Way To Go Solo

George Michael (left) and Andrew Ridgeley both went solo after Wham! broke up. One fared just a little better than the other.
Brian Aris

Read more
Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 am
Sun November 3, 2013

Ashley Monroe: Tiny Desk Concert

Ashley Monroe performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in September 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:54 pm

In the last few years, Ashley Monroe has cobbled together an impressive country-music pedigree by working alongside both upstarts (Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) and longtime Nashville veterans (Vince Gill produced Monroe's solo album Like a Rose), and even collaborating with Jack White every now

Read more
Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Daughter: Tiny Desk Concert

Daughter performs a Tiny Desk Concert in August 2013.
Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:04 pm

Daughter first popped up on our radar when we heard the London band's song "Landfill" while preparing for SXSW early last year: Achingly pretty and melancholy, the track builds to an absolute gut-punch of a line — "I want you so much, but I hate your guts" — that conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility.

Read more
All Songs Considered
1:51 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do I Name My Band, Anyway?

Hoobastank has sold more than 10 million albums. Does it really matter what you call your band?
Courtesy of the artist

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the new Pokemon 3DS games that have zombified our once-expressive children is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, tips on how to name one's band.

Read more
All Songs Considered
3:01 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Get Your Parents Into New Music?

You don't need to attend Foreigner concerts in 2013 to bond with your parents over music.
Slaven Vlasic Getty Images

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the packages our kids discard in disgust for not including the new Pokemon 3DS games is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, tips on inter-generational bonding over music.

Jake Ibey writes via Facebook: "How do you introduce new music to a parent (mid-50s) who is stuck in late-'70s rock mode?"

Read more
All Songs Considered
2:02 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

The Good Listener: Must We All 'Love' Music? Must We All Have 'Good Taste'?

This guy obsesses over your tastes in music. Should you?
Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the flyers urging us to replace our nonexistent maid service is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a pair of queries about the importance of loving the right music.

Jennifer Yousfi writes via Facebook: "I have horrible taste in music. How do I fix this?"

Read more
All Songs Considered
3:34 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

The Good Listener: Does Using Spotify Make You A Bad Person?

Will listening to music streaming services land you here in the afterlife?

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the online pharmacy's monthly supply of the pills that allow us to trudge productively through this waking life is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, an ethical query about online streaming services.

Andrea Sauceda writes via Facebook: "Does using Spotify (and/or other streaming services) make you a bad person?"

Read more
First Listen
4:06 am
Tue September 24, 2013

First Listen: Moby, 'Innocents'

Moby's new album, Innocents, comes out Oct. 1.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 9:35 am

The story of Moby's 11th album is one of collaboration: Innocents, his first full-length recording with an outside producer (Mark Stent, who's worked alongside virtually everyone in pop), finds the versatile multi-instrumentalist recruiting an impressive assortment of guest vocalists.

Read more
All Songs Considered
4:55 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

The Good Listener: Where Do Mopey Music Fans Turn When They Need Energy?

Japandroids' music provides a perfect gateway between mopey angst and unbridled joy.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat September 21, 2013 9:24 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the gigantic packets of 401(k) information we chuck directly into the fireplace is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request from a reader who seeks cheerful music for the mopey, beardy indie-rock soul.

Read more
All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Thu September 19, 2013

The Dodos: Showing 'Confidence' In A Video's Surprising Sequel

Chloe Aftel Courtesy of the artist

Lots of bands play bright, winsome folk-pop, but only one has the bold, sure drumming of The Dodos' Logan Kroeber; he infuses the duo's prettily propulsive songs with momentum and force. Four albums into The Dodos' career, the group is still making terrific records like the new Carrier — a tremendous sleeper for those who've been seeking a Blind Pilot-style left-field gem in 2013.

Read more
Tiny Desk Concerts
3:00 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Shovels & Rope: Tiny Desk Concert

Shovels and Rope plays a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:10 pm

Shovels & Rope's presence in the NPR Music offices attracted plenty of interest; many in attendance had long since fallen in love with the husband-and-wife duo's mix of rowdy folk-rock and rootsy balladeering.

Read more
World Cafe
11:32 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Bon Iver On World Cafe

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
D.L. Anderson

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 2:28 pm

This session, from Sept. 2, 2011, is part of our Vintage Cafe series, in which we revisit some of our best studio performances.

Read more
Monkey See
8:03 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Requested Reboots And 'Duck Dynasty'

NPR
  • Listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour

With intrepid host Linda Holmes trapped in the air-conditioned movie theaters of Toronto, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang was forced to reconstitute itself yet again for this week's episode — this time with our old pal Tanya Ballard Brown, who returns via the power of popular demand. You talk, we listen, people.

Read more
All Songs Considered
1:49 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

The Good Listener: Forget The Grammys — Which Music Awards Matter?

There were many ways to discover Alt-J in 2012, including this site, but the band's Mercury Prize win sure made it easier.
Courtesy of the artist

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and along with the quilt my kind sister couldn't possibly have made me herself came a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for ideas on music awards that double as useful buyer's guides.

Read more
Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Tue September 10, 2013

The 1975: Tiny Desk Concert

The 1975 performs a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Hayley Bartels Hayley Bartels/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:11 pm

As lead singer of the youthful Manchester band The 1975, Matthew Healy has cranked out a batch of enjoyably wiry songs, most notably the singles "Chocolate" and "Sex" — each of which has attracted more than a million YouTube plays. The group has been bubbling up, here and in the U.K., for the last year or two, as it's toured with Muse and released an album and four EPs full of brash-but-winsome, electronics-tinged pop-rock.

Read more
Monkey See
8:03 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Blue Jasmine' And A Summer Movie Postmortem

NPR
  • Listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour

As summer was giving way to fall, preseason football was giving way to actual football, and Linda Holmes' week was giving way to the Toronto International Film Festival, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang managed to gather just long enough to look back on a divisive summer full of big, loud, robot-on-robot movies. Our own postmortem can't help but skim past other postmortems — was Man of Steel a hit or a flop?

Read more
All Songs Considered
5:04 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

The Good Listener: When Playing Music At Work, Can You Please Everyone?

Can you please keep your Geto Boys down? I'm looking for my stapler.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Sat September 7, 2013 9:23 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the helpful slips from FedEx reminding us that we have to be at home to receive their package even though most people work during the day, for pete's sake is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for ideas for how to play music in the office without irritating people.

Read more
Monkey See
9:03 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: The Shambolic VMAs And Hollywood In The White House

NPR
  • Listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour

Just a few weeks ago, when Linda Holmes was out of town, we decided to extend the opportunity for a scrappy newcomer named Audie Cornish to get a bit of much-needed NPR airtime. Today? She's one of the hosts of All Things Considered. (Okay, she was one of the hosts of All Things Considered before we put her on Pop Culture Happy Hour, but stick around. I'm going somewhere with this.)

Read more
Newport Folk Festival
2:48 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Sarah Jarosz, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Sarah Jarosz performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Meagan Beauchemin NPR

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 11:18 am

Sarah Jarosz was still in high school when she signed her record deal, and she released her debut album (2009's Song Up In Her Head) shortly thereafter, but the versatile bluegrass star seemed to emerge fully formed. For one thing, the 22-year-old keeps her music sounding warmly pretty — and rooted in accessibly poppy folk — rather than focusing solely on her Grammy-nominated instrumental chops.

Read more

Pages