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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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

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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

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First Listen
11:40 pm
Sun April 14, 2013

First Listen: Laura Mvula, 'Sing To The Moon'

Laura Mvula's debut album, Sing to the Moon, comes out April 16.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed May 1, 2013 11:05 pm

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First Listen
10:42 am
Mon April 8, 2013

First Listen: The Flaming Lips, 'The Terror'

The Flaming Lips' new album, The Terror, comes out April 16.
George Salisbury Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:51 pm

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First Listen
10:41 am
Mon April 8, 2013

First Listen: Shuggie Otis, 'Inspiration Information/Wings Of Love'

Shuggie Otis' Inspiration Information/Wings of Love comes out April 16.
Adam Farber Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 11:02 pm

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First Listen
10:37 am
Mon April 8, 2013

First Listen: Iron And Wine, 'Ghost On Ghost'

Iron and Wine's new album, Ghost on Ghost, comes out April 16.
Craig Kief Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 10:59 pm

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First Listen
8:53 am
Mon April 1, 2013

First Listen: Villagers, '{Awayland}'

Villagers' new album, {Awayland}, comes out April 9.
Rich Gilligan Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 12:52 pm

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First Listen
9:27 am
Tue March 26, 2013

First Listen: Telekinesis, 'Dormarion'

Telekinesis' new album, Dormarion, comes out April 2.
Kyle Johnson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed April 3, 2013 8:00 am

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Music
11:57 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

First Listen: Low, 'The Invisible Way'

Low's new album, The Invisible Way, comes out March 19.
Zoran Orlic Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 8:47 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

In 20 years, Low's basic ingredients haven't changed much: Guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker swap and sometimes layer their vocals, with a third member joining the married couple on bass. The pace, for the most part, is kept deliberate, even glacial, with strategically deployed silence hanging between notes in order to enhance their power. Low songs don't often change tempo noticeably, instead achieving tension through variations in volume.

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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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Music
1:08 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

The Mix: The Austin 100

Molly Hamilton of Widowspeak is one of the 100 acts with songs in our annual SXSW sampler.
Loren Wohl for NPR

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 3:03 pm

Audio for The Austin 100 is no longer available.

It says a lot about SXSW's size and scope that this "sampler" of the annual music festival spans six and a half hours, but here we are: 100 songs by 100 artists worth discovering at this year's big event.

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First Listen
7:23 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

First Listen: Devendra Banhart, 'Mala'

Devendra Banhart's new album, Mala, comes out March 12.
Ana Kras Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013 10:08 am

For a guy who gets tagged with a lot of limiting descriptors — "freak folk," "hippie" and so forth — Devendra Banhart doesn't like to let his music sit in any spot for long. His catalog, which now includes seven official albums, has taken him through warmly intimate ballads, raw and unselfconsciously strange home recordings, songs in several languages (Banhart spent much of his childhood in Venezuela), a lot of smoothly strummy folk-pop and the occasional low-key anthem about free-spiritedness.

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First Listen
5:23 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

First Listen: Jimi Hendrix, 'People, Hell And Angels'

Jimi Hendrix's new album, People, Hell and Angels, comes out March 5.
Brian T. Colvil Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 7:55 am

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First Listen
4:21 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

First Listen: Josh Ritter, 'The Beast In Its Tracks'

Josh Ritter's new album, The Beast in Its Tracks, comes out March 5.
Laura Wilson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 7:41 am

As one of the most thoughtful singer-songwriters around, Josh Ritter isn't one to write angry, over-the-top, knee-jerk breakup songs — even though his new album, The Beast in Its Tracks, was written entirely in response to his own recent divorce. Gentility and empathy are wired into Ritter's songwriting, so his idea of a breakup anthem is the gorgeous and glorious "Joy to You Baby," in which he closes the book on a relationship by wishing everyone well, himself included.

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Music
9:59 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

First Listen: Shout Out Louds, 'Optica'

Shout Out Louds' new album, Optica, comes out Feb. 26.
Frode & Marcus Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 7:11 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Say what you will about some of the biggest songs of the 1980s — go ahead and badmouth electric pianos, and by all means bemoan the prevailing production quality — but the decade continues to cast a long shadow over popular music. Given its enduring popularity on dance floors and on radios, not to mention the rise of '80s-emulating singers like Gotye, you could do far worse than look to that decade for tips on connecting with audiences.

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Music
12:58 pm
Mon February 11, 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

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Music
12:47 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

First Listen: 'Son Of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys'

Keith Richards collaborates with Tom Waits in "Shenandoah" for Son of Rogues Gallery, out Feb. 19.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 8:40 am

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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
4:27 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

First Listen: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, 'We The Common'

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down's new album, We the Common, comes out Feb. 5.
Lauren Tabak Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 3:08 pm

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First Listen
5:43 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

First Listen: Jim James, 'Regions Of Light And Sound Of God'

Jim James' Regions of Light and Sound of God comes out Feb. 5.
Neil Krug Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 10:09 am

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