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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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Of Montreal: Tiny Desk Concert

Of Montreal performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Dec. 14, 2012.
Christopher Parks NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:44 pm

About halfway into Of Montreal's Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices, I showed a friend a Post-It note on which I'd just scribbled, "Was I wrong to expect more of a decadent, pan-sexual carnival?" I'd thought we were going to need to throw plastic sheeting over our desks, like at a GWAR concert, and there we were, watching a miniaturized Of Montreal — just Kevin Barnes solo, albeit with the assistance of singer Rebecca Cash and guitarist Bryan Poole for "Feminine Effects" — as it strummed its way through three stripped-dow

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All Songs Considered
3:11 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

We Get Mail: When You Hear Music, Are You Really Listening?

Anna Bryukhanova iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:24 pm

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All Songs Considered
4:46 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

We Get Mail: Loved By Millions, Hated By You — What To Do?

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 2:24 pm

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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

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the piles of new CDs and holiday cards from local merchants are many smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, ways to delve into unfamiliar genres.

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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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