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
12:53 am
Wed January 23, 2013

First Listen: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, 'II'

Unknown Mortal Orchestra's new album, II, comes out Feb. 5.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 3:01 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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Music
10:37 am
Mon January 14, 2013

First Listen: Widowspeak, 'Almanac'

Widowspeak's new album, Almanac, comes out Jan. 22.
Andrew Smith Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 7:31 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Widowspeak is a fount of familiar sounds, from early-'90s shoegazer rock to twangily portentous Western soundtracks to the languidly soft pop of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. But the Brooklyn-based duo of Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas fuses them all into a hazy swirl and gives them a kick of buzzy energy — and, in the process, gives the music a dreamy pop sound of its own.

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Music
10:35 am
Mon January 14, 2013

First Listen: Aaron Neville, 'My True Story'

Aaron Neville's My True Story comes out on Jan. 22.
Sarah A. Friedman Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri January 25, 2013 7:30 pm

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Music
7:55 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

First Listen: The Lone Bellow, 'The Lone Bellow'

The Lone Bellow's self-titled debut comes out Jan. 22.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 8:26 am

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Music
7:54 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

First Listen: Indians, 'Somewhere Else'

Søren Løkke Juul, who records and performs as Indians, releases Something Else on Jan. 29.
Piper Ferguson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun February 17, 2013 11:11 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

The Danish singer and multi-instrumentalist who goes by the name Indians, a.k.a. Søren Løkke Juul, makes music that retains its intimacy even as it seems to sprawl out into space. On his first full-length album, Somewhere Else (out Jan. 29), he masters a kind of quiet adventurousness; it's remarkable headphone music that reaches both the heart and the loneliest reaches of the heavens.

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Music
8:16 pm
Tue January 1, 2013

First Listen: Erin McKeown, 'Manifestra'

Erin McKeown's Manifestra comes out Jan. 15, 2013.
Merri Cyr Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 8:25 am

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Music
3:22 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

Another Year, Another 'Christmas With The Chipmunks'

The Chipmunks, left to right: Simon, Theodore, Alvin.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 6:37 pm

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Music
12:21 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

First Listen: Sufjan Stevens, 'Silver & Gold'

Sufjan Stevens released Silver & Gold Nov. 13.
Denny Renshaw Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 5:46 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Holiday music is often the domain of musicians who do the bare minimum. Available shortcuts abound: So many standards reside in the public domain, the arrangements write themselves, and expectations for the work as a whole generally hover somewhere in the neighborhood of "This could be nice, I suppose."

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Music
7:30 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

First Listen: Tracey Thorn, 'Tinsel And Lights'

Tracey Thorn's album Tinsel and Lights was released Oct. 30.
Edward Bishop Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 5:47 pm

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First Listen
8:07 am
Tue October 9, 2012

First Listen: Martha Wainwright, 'Come Home To Mama'

Martha Wainwright's new album, Come Home to Mama, comes out Oct. 16.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun October 21, 2012 6:08 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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First Listen
12:00 am
Mon September 10, 2012

First Listen: Grizzly Bear, 'Shields'

Grizzly Bear's new album, Shields, comes out Sept. 18.
Barbara Anastacio Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 9:19 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

For a band with a firm grasp on pristine, precise production and immaculate vocal

harmonies, Grizzly Bear can be inscrutable at times: Its members have been known to use their formidable studio chops in the pursuit of what can sound like puzzles waiting to be solved.

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First Listen
11:57 pm
Sun September 9, 2012

First Listen: Aimee Mann, 'Charmer'

Aimee Mann's new album, Charmer, comes out Sept. 18.
Sheryl Nields Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 9:14 pm

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First Listen
12:09 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

First Listen: The xx, 'Coexist'

The xx's new album, Coexist, comes out Sept. 11.
Alexandra Waespi Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 11:45 am

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First Listen
2:07 pm
Mon September 3, 2012

First Listen: David Byrne & St. Vincent, 'Love This Giant'

David Byrne and St. Vincent's new album, Love This Giant, comes out Sept. 11.
Andreas Laszlo Konrath Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 11:47 am

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First Listen
1:21 pm
Sun September 2, 2012

First Listen: The Avett Brothers, 'The Carpenter'

The Avett Brothers' new album, The Carpenter, will be released on Sept. 11.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 11:43 am

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First Listen
11:33 am
Tue August 28, 2012

First Listen: Stars, 'The North'

Stars new album, The North, comes out Sept. 4.
Norman Wong Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 6:48 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

The Montreal pop band Stars has always kept several sensibilities in rotation: Its arsenal includes fizzy pop, melancholy dance music, boy-girl ballads that flesh out the painful realities of modern romantic life, and anthems that address war, politics, gender dynamics and even the meaning of life. As such, Stars' albums tend to jump around a bit — rarely more so than on The North, the group's sixth full-length record, out Sept. 4.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
12:25 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Beth Orton: Tiny Desk Concert

Michael Katzif NPR

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 2:26 pm

English singer-songwriter Beth Orton is one of the best-known practitioners of a subgenre in which folk songs are set to electronic beats — it's a sound she employed to popular and powerful effect throughout the late '90s and early '00s, on hit albums such as Trailer Park, Central Reservation and Daybreaker.

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Field Recordings
12:40 pm
Wed August 22, 2012

The Avett Brothers: Hot Tea And Honey

The Avett Brothers Field Recordings video shoot
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 4:00 pm

Seth and Scott Avett spend a good chunk of their lives on one tour bus or another, so asking them to perform in one isn't all that different from asking them to perform in one of their own living rooms. They may be far away from their native North Carolina — to be exact, they're captured here in a Camden, N.J., parking lot in conjunction with the XPoNential Music Festival — but the setting is cozy enough for Seth Avett to brew tea before performing.

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First Listen
12:56 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

First Listen: Yeasayer, 'Fragrant World'

Yeasayer's new album, Fragrant World, comes out August 21.
Anna Palma

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 2:13 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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First Listen
12:55 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

First Listen: Divine Fits, 'A Thing Called Divine Fits'

Divine Fits' debut album, A Thing Called Divine Fits, comes out August 28.
Marina Chavez

Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 10:51 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

The word "supergroup" gets thrown around like so much confetti, then affixed to any band whose members have worked on high-profile projects of any kind in the past. But not all supergroups are the bloated product of committee thinking or Frankensteinian ego exercises; some are just established musicians who've discovered organically that they like working with certain other established musicians.

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