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 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, 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 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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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Fri February 22, 2013

The Good Listener: Do I Come To SXSW If I Don't Have A Badge Or A Billion Dollars?

Whether you buy a $795 badge or show up with a little spare cash on hand, SXSW has something for you — and will expect you to stand in line at some point.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 8:06 am

[This story originally ran on Feb. 22, 2013, but still applies today.]

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the Valentine's Day cards that got returned with no forwarding address is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how music fans could and should approach SXSW, the gigantic music festival held every March in Austin, Texas.

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All Songs Considered
1:08 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Playing SXSW? Send Us Your Song

This member of Middle Brother had someone send an MP3 to All Songs Considered a couple years back, and now look at him: He's on the NPR Music website again.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 6:08 pm

Every year around this time, all four members of the All Songs Considered roundtable gang (Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Ann Powers and me) each dredge through more than 1,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. We base our coverage and festival schedules on the music we've researched in advance — and have found some of our favorite artists, like Kishi Bashi in 2012, as part of these blind pre-fest taste tests — and this year, we want to be sure we're considering yours.

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Live in Concert
10:11 am
Wed February 20, 2013

NPR Music Presents: Josh Ritter In Concert

Josh Ritter performs The Beast in Its Tracks at Le Poisson Rouge.
Ebru Yildiz for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 10:53 am

To stand out as an acoustic-guitar-wielding folk-rock singer-songwriter, you'd better have an awful lot of charisma at your disposal — and it helps if, like Josh Ritter, you're able to infuse your songs with a sense that stakes are high and words ring true. A prolific singer-songwriter who's appropriately delved into a side career as a novelist, Ritter crafts his words carefully, but never loses sight of what makes them relate to the experiences of those who hear him.

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All Songs Considered
11:20 am
Thu February 14, 2013

It's Valentine's Day, So Here's A Gorgeous Love Song By Rhye

Rhye's debut album, Woman, comes out March 5.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 1:25 pm

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All Songs Considered
7:03 am
Thu February 14, 2013

We Get Mail: Music To Help You Ignore Valentine's Day Altogether

Sometimes our hearts are neither broken nor bright on Valentine's Day. The indifferent need a soundtrack, too!
erin m via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:19 pm

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All Songs Considered
3:54 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Song Premiere: Take A 'Tofutti' Break With A Wonderful Oddball

The Heligoats.
Courtesy of the artist

In concerts, The Heligoats' Chris Otepka spends a good deal of time explaining his songs, often introducing them with strange, funny, byzantine stories that somehow serve as functional explanations for the words he's about to sing.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

The xx: Tiny Desk Concert

The xx performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 29, 2013.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:42 pm

It's easy to think of The xx as a fashionable band: Its members have a sleek all-in-black look, its typography and cover art is coolly and distinctively styled, and the group itself has been showered with validation, including Britain's 2010 Mercury Prize. But beneath all that tightly controlled image-making lays music that's raw and vulnerable; shy, worried tentativeness is wired into a sound that shimmers powerfully, but remains as fragile and delicate as a soap bubble.

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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
2:04 am
Fri February 8, 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

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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All Songs Considered
1:36 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

We Get Mail: As Valentine's Day Approaches, Do We Still Need Mixtapes?

In an age of digital files, does handpicking and handing someone a music mix still matter?
Leah Tihia via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:23 pm

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