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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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

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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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

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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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

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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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

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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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

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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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 Tue October 2, 2012 10:52 am

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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First Listen
6:08 pm
Sat August 11, 2012

First Listen: 'Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac'

Fleetwood Mac's 1976, Rumours-era lineup featured John McVie, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
CBS Photo Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 15, 2012 3:51 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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All Songs Considered Blog
4:10 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

First Watch: Lord Huron, 'Time To Run'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 1:41 pm

For the L.A. band Lord Huron, there's far more to music than merely playing sweetly summery, rhythmically inventive pop. There's also an air of mystery: a desire to tell stories, play with identities and craft visuals to complement its sounds. The bouncy "Time to Run" is a tremendously ingratiating song, but the band's video piles on new dimensions to make it that much richer.

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All Songs Considered Blog
10:41 am
Wed August 8, 2012

Watch Tom Waits' Bracing, Beautiful 'Hell Broke Luce' Video

Tom Waits.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue August 7, 2012 12:59 pm

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Live in Concert
11:02 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

Sigur Rós In Concert

Sigur Ros performs at Celebrate Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell on July 31, 2012.
Ryan Muir for NPR

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 10:55 am

Sigur Rós could be forgiven for sounding better on record than in concert. The Icelandic band's songs either billow out deliberately or stomp majestically, and in every case entail the building of layers upon intricate sonic layers. Plus, singer Jónsi — he of the otherworldly voice, singing mostly in a ghostly language of his own devising — is no Mick Jagger when it comes to calling attention to himself.

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Newport Folk Festival
4:08 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Spirit Family Reunion, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2012

Erik Jacobs for NPR

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 9:38 am

  • Spirit Family Reunion Live From Newport

The last band to open for Levon Helm before his death earlier this year, Brooklyn's Spirit Family Reunion crafts a sweetly ramshackle Americana sound that's part secular gospel revival, part folk ramble.

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Newport Folk Festival
3:49 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Blind Pilot, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2012

Blind Pilot performs at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival.
Douglas Mason

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 11:27 am

  • Blind Pilot Live From Newport

Since expanding from a duo into a sextet, Blind Pilot has given its warmly catchy, charmingly delicate folk-pop a bit of a propulsive kick: For all the band's sweet, easy-going grace, it's a special pleasure to hear it apply a percussive jolt to songs like "We Are the Tide." Released last year, the album of the same name is consistently engaging, but Israel Nebeker's songs about nature and desire sound best when Blind Pilot puts some muscle behind them.

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