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

First Listen
5:35 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

First Listen: Phox, 'Phox'

Phox's self-titled debut comes out June 24.
Jade Ehlers Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 10:28 am

The word "charisma" is often used to imply a certain kind of attention-grabbing showiness, or even neediness. But it can also suggest subtle ease; a simple gravitational pull that draws people in by making them feel comfortable and at home.

Read more
First Listen
5:51 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

First Listen: The Antlers, 'Familiars'

The Antlers' new album, Familiars, comes out June 17.
Marc Lemoine Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 12:34 pm

The 2009 album Hospice sparked a major breakthrough for The Antlers, but it's not the sort of success a band would want to duplicate, even if it could. As the title suggests, Hospice was built around a dark unifying theme — an examination of the events surrounding the slow death of singer Peter Silberman's friend — so the record comes by its desolate, life-and-death intensity honestly.

Read more
First Listen
4:55 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

First Listen: First Aid Kit, 'Stay Gold'

First Aid Kit's new album, Stay Gold, comes out June 10.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 12:35 pm

Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg first made their names with feather-light chamber-folk confections that echoed the soaring sweetness of Fleet Foxes. A cover of that band's "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" even helped launch the then-teenagers to YouTube fame back in 2008. But in 2014, styles have changed and so have the Söderbergs: First Aid Kit's major-label debut, Stay Gold, moves well beyond the portentous prettiness of the pair's 2012 breakthrough, The Lion's Roar.

Read more
First Listen
4:40 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

First Listen: Nikki Lane, 'All Or Nothin"

Nikki Lane's new album, All or Nothin', comes out May 6.
Chuck Grant Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 12:16 pm

Many young singers are stalked by an ill-fitting, virtually unshakable descriptor, whether it's a limiting and vaguely dismissive adjective ("quirky," for example) or a limiting and vaguely dismissive noun ("songstress," to pick one that should be banished from the language and buried under 10,000 pounds of rock salt). For Nikki Lane, that descriptor seems to be "outlaw country" — a generally defensible expression, but one that can subtly imply an element of posturing, even posing.

Read more
Music
6:01 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

The Austin 100: A SXSW 2014 Mix

Becky Black's band The Pack A.D. is featured as part of NPR Music's downloadable 100-song SXSW preview.
Mark Horton WireImage

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 10:55 am

Every year, more than 2,000 acts swarm to SXSW — and every year, NPR Music painstakingly handpicks 100 of the music festival's best discoveries for a downloadable six-hour sampler. We call it The Austin 100, and it's virtually guaranteed to contain something you'll love that you didn't know existed.

For the next 30 days, you can download The Austin 100 from this page — either song by song, or with one click, in its 839 MB entirety — as well as stream it as a continuous mix, both here and through NPR Music's various mobile apps.

Read more
First Listen
10:35 am
Thu January 30, 2014

First Listen: 'Sweetheart 2014'

Sweetheart 2014 comes out Feb. 4.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 10:21 am

Compiled by Starbucks every few years, the Sweetheart compilations adhere to a simple concept in which well-liked contemporary artists cover well-liked classic love songs just in time for Valentine's Day. But, more importantly, the collections revolve around a refreshing and consistent mindset: There are no arch piss-takes, no goofs, no skirting sincerity with a wink and a sneer. Even when an effort feels like a minor pairing or a failed experiment, goodwill carries the day.

Read more
Music
6:25 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

First Listen: Damien Jurado, 'Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son'

Damien Jurado's new album, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son, comes out Jan. 21.
Steve Gullick Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 2:43 pm

It's a testament to singer-songwriter Damien Jurado's versatility that he's made nearly a dozen albums of largely inward-looking folk and rock music, and yet has never made two records that sound the same.

Read more
Music
5:52 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

First Listen: Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings, 'Give The People What They Want'

Give the People What They Want, Sharon Jones' new album with The Dap-Kings, comes out Jan. 14.
Paul McGeiver Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 10:33 am

For veteran soul singer Sharon Jones, 2013 was a year of frustration, fear and false starts: She'd just announced the summer release of her fifth album, Give the People What They Want, when she was diagnosed with cancer and had to put her career on hold. Tours were canceled, while the finished record had to be shelved until she'd recovered to where she was in a position to promote it. Anyone who's seen Jones live knows how much she pours into performing, so fans appeared to be in for a long wait.

Read more
Music
4:29 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Indie-Pop Albums That Make The Cut Are More Than Mere Collections

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:30 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

At NPR Music, they're wrapping up the year the best way they know how, with their hotly contested list of their 50 favorite albums of 2013. Now, all this week, we'll get a peak of that list from our in-house experts, including NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson, whose beat is the ever amorphous indie pop, which - Stephen, what exactly is that these days?

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: I have absolutely no idea. It used to mean accessible but unpopular.

CORNISH: OK. So...

(LAUGHTER)

Read more
Music
10:33 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

First Listen: Sebadoh, 'Defend Yourself'

Sebadoh's new album, Defend Yourself, comes out Sept. 17.
Bryan Zimmerman Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 18, 2013 10:59 am

Lou Barlow has been reuniting with old bandmates left and right in the last decade or so, even as his personal life has broken apart. In 2005, the rock veteran rejoined Dinosaur Jr., having long since moved past the acrimony surrounding his departure, and he's now back with Sebadoh for the first time since the turn of the century.

Read more
First Listen
11:23 am
Sun September 1, 2013

First Listen: Okkervil River, 'The Silver Gymnasium'

Okkervil River's new album, The Silver Gymnasium, comes out Sept. 3.
Ben Sklar Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 8:10 am

It's human nature to romanticize a specific time and place in the past — a moment when everything felt just right, or opportunities were laid out like a banquet. For Okkervil River's Will Sheff, it's been impossible to let go of Meriden, N.H., circa 1986: That tiny town is where he spent his childhood (he turned 10 that summer) and where his parents taught at an area boarding school.

Read more
Music
8:57 am
Fri July 26, 2013

5 New Faces Of Folk, At The 2013 Newport Folk Festival

Alynda Lee Segarra records as Hurray For The Riff Raff, one of the emerging acts making its debut at the Newport Folk Festival this year.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 6:16 pm

The Newport Folk Festival's history is dotted with historic moments involving musical icons — Bob Dylan plugging in jumps immediately to mind. But, while organizers still take care to stack each festival with huge names and star veterans, the margins are smartly and lovingly curated, too. The 2013 Newport Folk Festival is no different, with an impressive slate of boundary-pushers and genre-eschewers. Here are five of the newest and most promising faces, with a downloadable song from each.

Read more
Music
10:05 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Hold Seats At A Festival?

These Newport Folk Festival fans knew well enough to position themselves a ways back from the stage.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 1:53 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the flyers from reputable debt-consolidation companies is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a vexing piece of concert-going etiquette.

Read more
ALL SONGS CONSIDERED
11:09 am
Fri June 21, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Pick The Songs For Your Wedding?

Don't let a slow, introspective song crash your wedding reception.
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 12:11 pm

Read more
Music
11:38 am
Fri May 31, 2013

The Good Listener: What's More Important, Lyrics Or Music?

Which is more important: The word "Hallelujah" or music that says "Hallelujah" on its own?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 2:05 pm

Read more
Music
12:18 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

First Listen: G&D, 'The Lighthouse'

Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins' new album as G&D, The Lighthouse, comes out May 21.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon May 27, 2013 10:25 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Read more
Arts + Life
9:37 am
Fri May 10, 2013

We Get Mail: How Can A Vinyl Lover Start Over From Scratch?

For fans of vinyl records who regret discarding their collections, it's not too hard to start over.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:03 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the ironic promotional cassingles is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how a regretful fan of vinyl records can re-create her discarded collection.

Kirsten Elbourne Mathieson writes: "I'm big-time regretting getting rid of all of my record albums years ago. Any advice for someone starting from scratch with vinyl after all these years? What albums must be heard on vinyl rather than CD/digital?"

Read more
Music
9:52 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Jittery Jams: 10 Songs For Coffee Lovers

Frank Sinatra's "The Coffee Song" makes light of a perceived Brazilian coffee glut.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 2:46 am

Read more
First Listen
11:51 pm
Sun April 14, 2013

First Listen: Mother Falcon, 'You Knew'

Mother Falcon's new album, You Knew, comes out May 7.
Bryan Rindfuss Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 8:12 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Read more
First Listen
11:42 pm
Sun April 14, 2013

First Listen: Steve Martin And Edie Brickell, 'Love Has Come For You'

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's first album together, Love Has Come for You, comes out April 23.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 7:51 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Read more

Pages