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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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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All Songs Considered
9:01 am
Thu January 10, 2013

We Get Mail: A Father-Daughter Wedding Dance That Won't Make Everyone Gag

How do you pick a song for a father and daughter's wedding dance without spiraling into sappiness?
Lindsay Pierce via carolynhack/Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:25 pm

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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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All Songs Considered
11:08 am
Thu December 13, 2012

We Get Mail: Learning To Love Music You Don't Know

Virtually every genre of music yields enough new material to overwhelm even the most dedicated listener.
Lars Gotrich NPR

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:26 pm

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Best Music Of 2012
12:55 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

Stephen Thompson's Top 10 Albums Of 2012

Japandroids' music celebrates the joy of a life lived loudly.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed December 12, 2012 1:18 pm

The caveats practically write themselves at this point: Top 10 lists are subjective and inherently insufficient to sum up any given year in music. They capture the opinions of one person and one person only — think "favorite," not "best" — and are bound to reflect not only individual tastes, but also individual experiences over the course of a given year.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Lyle Lovett: Tiny Desk Concert

Lyle Lovett performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 13, 2012.
Ryan Smith NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:48 pm

For all of Lyle Lovett's considerable artistic gifts — a distinctive voice, easygoing charisma, rare talent for wordplay — his greatest attribute may be the way he radiates infectious calm. He's a one-time tabloid fixture who writes wry, bittersweet songs of longing, but Lovett in person is like a vortex into which stress and drama disappear.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Anaïs Mitchell: Tiny Desk Concert

Anais Mitchell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 23, 2012.
Lauren Rock NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:49 pm

Her voice is soft and sweet, her guitar work deft and evocative, but Anaïs Mitchell is a songwriting storyteller first and foremost. Robbed of a gift for melody and poetry, Mitchell would probably (and may yet) write some tremendous novels.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

Martha Wainwright: Tiny Desk Concert

Martha Wainwright performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 15, 2012.
Ryan Smith Ryan Smith/NPR

Originally published on Tue November 27, 2012 4:37 pm

Martha Wainwright's songs examine uncomfortable moments and life experiences gone wrong, but as she acknowledges in between songs at this Tiny Desk Concert, she often has to fudge her own life story to make the details more unsettling. ("Take everything with a grain of salt," she says, "except the good stuff.") What she does is the opposite of sugarcoating: She roughs up life's smooth spots, then digs her fingertips into the cracks that form.

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All Songs Considered
11:32 am
Wed November 21, 2012

We Get Mail: How Much Music Is Too Much Music?

With so much new music, who has time to listen to this? And with all this old music, who has time to listen to the new stuff?
passetti via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:29 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Ben Gibbard: Tiny Desk Concert

Benjamin Gibbard performs a Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR Music offices on Nov. 8, 2012.
Lauren Rock NPR

Originally published on Mon November 19, 2012 3:17 pm

Ben Gibbard has spent so much time at the head of various bands — Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, All-Time Quarterback — that it's easy to forget how well his sweetly brainy songs work in a solo acoustic setting. His melodies are sturdy enough to withstand skeletal arrangements, and though his persona is unassuming by nature, he remains a charismatic and charming live performer.

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