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.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
5:19 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Waxahatchee, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee performs at NPR Music's 2013 SXSW Showcase at Stubb's.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 10:03 pm

  • Waxahatchee, Recorded Live At Stubb's

If Katie Crutchfield ever becomes a solo star, it's hard to imagine how the Waxahatchee singer's most bruised and beautiful songs will translate to a gigantic stage. Tucked into a back room at Stubb's during SXSW on March 13 — and following in the immediate aftermath of Nick Cave's swaggering turn under the stars — Crutchfield opened her 25-minute set with a string of fragile solo songs, each more delicate than the last. This was interior music, made of guts and nerves and other viscera we don't share easily.

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All Songs Considered
4:50 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Baby Bands, Pop Stars And Room-Filling Joy: What To Expect At SXSW 2013

Twin Horns Of Joy? Members of the band The Bottom Dollars play on the street in Austin, Texas, during the opening night of the South by Southwest music festival.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 9:55 am

Listen to Stephen Thompson's conversation with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered by clicking the audio link.


The South by Southwest music festival kicked off Tuesday with the first of five straight nights of music overload: The clubs, makeshift music venues and front porches of Austin, Texas, were overrun with little-known discoveries-in-waiting and big names alike, as well as tens of thousands of fans who have flocked to the city in search of epiphanies.

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All Songs Considered
3:31 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

We Get Mail: Picking The Perfect Travel Playlist

This little scamp gets ready for Norway's Trondheim Metal Fest by psyching himself up with the music of Napalm Death.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:14 pm

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SXSW: Live From Austin
11:16 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Dave Grohl's SXSW 2013 Keynote Speech

Dave Grohl gives the keynote speech at SXSW 2013.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 11:46 am

Somewhere along the way, Dave Grohl has become the unofficial Mayor of Rock 'n' Roll: a gregarious ambassador who wins armloads of Grammys and even directs a documentary — Sound City: Real to Reel — about the artistry, technology and magic that goes into making a great studio recording. So it makes sense that Grohl would address the assembled music fans at the SXSW music conference for the year's keynote speech.

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All Songs Considered
2:34 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

We Get Mail: With Kids In The Car, Who Controls The Stereo?

This little scamp has no say over the car stereo.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:14 pm

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Fri February 22, 2013

The Good Listener: Do I Come To SXSW If I Don't Have A Badge Or A Billion Dollars?

Whether you buy a $795 badge or show up with a little spare cash on hand, SXSW has something for you — and will expect you to stand in line at some point.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 8:06 am

[This story originally ran on Feb. 22, 2013, but still applies today.]

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Valentine's Day cards that got returned with no forwarding address is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how music fans could and should approach SXSW, the gigantic music festival held every March in Austin, Texas.

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All Songs Considered
1:08 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Playing SXSW? Send Us Your Song

This member of Middle Brother had someone send an MP3 to All Songs Considered a couple years back, and now look at him: He's on the NPR Music website again.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 6:08 pm

Every year around this time, all four members of the All Songs Considered roundtable gang (Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me) each dredge through more than 1,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. We base our coverage and festival schedules on the music we've researched in advance — and have found some of our favorite artists, like Kishi Bashi in 2012, as part of these blind pre-fest taste tests — and this year, we want to be sure we're considering yours.

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Live in Concert
10:11 am
Wed February 20, 2013

NPR Music Presents: Josh Ritter In Concert

Josh Ritter performs The Beast in Its Tracks at Le Poisson Rouge.
Ebru Yildiz for NPR

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 4:31 pm

To stand out as an acoustic-guitar-wielding folk-rock singer-songwriter, you'd better have an awful lot of charisma at your disposal — and it helps if, like Josh Ritter, you're able to infuse your songs with a sense that stakes are high and words ring true. A prolific singer-songwriter who's appropriately delved into a side career as a novelist, Ritter crafts his words carefully, but never loses sight of what makes them relate to the experiences of those who hear him.

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All Songs Considered
11:20 am
Thu February 14, 2013

It's Valentine's Day, So Here's A Gorgeous Love Song By Rhye

Rhye's debut album, Woman, comes out March 5.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 1:25 pm

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All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Thu February 14, 2013

We Get Mail: Music To Help You Ignore Valentine's Day Altogether

Sometimes our hearts are neither broken nor bright on Valentine's Day. The indifferent need a soundtrack, too!
erin m via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:19 pm

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All Songs Considered
3:54 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Song Premiere: Take A 'Tofutti' Break With A Wonderful Oddball

The Heligoats.
Courtesy of the artist

In concerts, The Heligoats' Chris Otepka spends a good deal of time explaining his songs, often introducing them with strange, funny, byzantine stories that somehow serve as functional explanations for the words he's about to sing.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

The xx: Tiny Desk Concert

The xx performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 29, 2013.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:42 pm

It's easy to think of The xx as a fashionable band: Its members have a sleek all-in-black look, its typography and cover art is coolly and distinctively styled, and the group itself has been showered with validation, including Britain's 2010 Mercury Prize. But beneath all that tightly controlled image-making lays music that's raw and vulnerable; shy, worried tentativeness is wired into a sound that shimmers powerfully, but remains as fragile and delicate as a soap bubble.

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Monkey See
3:49 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Play-By-Play: Read Along With The Grammy Awards

Taylor Swift gives the opening performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday in Los Angeles.
Christopher Polk Getty Images for NARAS

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 1:11 am

With the conclusion of Sunday night's ceremony, Linda Holmes and I have now live-blogged fully one-eleventh of the Grammy Awards' 55 annual incarnations. Below is our original post and an archived live blog of the telecast:

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First Listen
2:04 am
Fri February 8, 2013

First Listen: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, 'Push The Sky Away'

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' new album, Push the Sky Away, comes out Feb. 19.
Cat Stevens Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 8:38 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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All Songs Considered
12:41 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

We Get Mail: Why Do We Need Breakup Songs? Aren't We Suffering Enough?

Do breakup songs just make everything worse?
Marat Sirotyukov iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:20 pm

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All Songs Considered
1:36 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

We Get Mail: As Valentine's Day Approaches, Do We Still Need Mixtapes?

In an age of digital files, does handpicking and handing someone a music mix still matter?
Leah Tihia via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:23 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Of Montreal: Tiny Desk Concert

Of Montreal performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 14, 2012.
Christopher Parks NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:44 pm

About halfway into Of Montreal's Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices, I showed a friend a Post-It note on which I'd just scribbled, "Was I wrong to expect more of a decadent, pan-sexual carnival?" I'd thought we were going to need to throw plastic sheeting over our desks, like at a GWAR concert, and there we were, watching a miniaturized Of Montreal — just Kevin Barnes solo, albeit with the assistance of singer Rebecca Cash and guitarist Bryan Poole for "Feminine Effects" — as it strummed its way through three stripped-dow

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All Songs Considered
3:11 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

We Get Mail: When You Hear Music, Are You Really Listening?

Anna Bryukhanova iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:24 pm

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All Songs Considered
4:19 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

We Get Mail: Loved My Millions, Hated By You — What To Do?

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:24 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:46 pm
Mon January 14, 2013

Black Prairie: Tiny Desk Concert

Black Prairie performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 9, 2012.
Ryan Smith NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:44 pm

The charming roots-folk band Black Prairie got its start as an outlet for The Decemberists' Chris Funk and Nate Query, who wanted an outlet for some of their rootsy, mostly instrumental string-band wanderings.

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