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 Blog
1:14 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

First Watch: Band Of Horses, 'Knock Knock'

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 8:35 pm

Two weeks ago, we premiered the video for Lord Huron's "Time to Run," in which the group ran around in the desert simulating an old Spaghetti Western — and, with the help of its director, captured the washed-out look and feel of old film stock.

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Field Recordings
7:56 am
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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All Songs Considered Blog
2:00 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Song Premiere: Jackson 5, 'If The Shoe Don't Fit'

Jackson 5.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 8:36 pm

Michael Jackson and the word "undiscovered" don't generally fit together: He had his first hit with the Jackson 5 at age 10, after all, and spent the subsequent 40 years in various stages of superstardom and/or notoriety. But troves of rare and unreleased Jacksonalia are sure to keep flooding out in the years to come.

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Newport Folk Festival
7:15 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

The Tallest Man On Earth, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2012

Tallest Man On Earth performs at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival.
Erik Jacobs for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 11:19 am

Kristian Matsson, the smallish Swede who performs under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth, sings, plays guitar and occasionally takes a turn at the piano. That's all there is to his act: no backing band, no frills. Heck, he barely needs amplification, given the volume at which he performs. But that right there — the gigantic force of his delivery, the percussive hyper-dexterity of his playing — is part of what makes him so magnetic on stage. On paper, he's just another poet strumming a guitar.

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First Listen
10:33 am
Sun August 12, 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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All Songs Considered Blog
1:41 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

First Watch: Lord Huron, 'Time To Run'

Courtesy of the artist

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
9:03 am
Thu August 9, 2012

Song Premiere: Azure Ray, 'Red Balloon'

Azure Ray's new EP, As Above So Below, comes out Sept. 4.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 5:36 pm

Azure Ray documents the collision between two distinct musical sensibilities: the sweetly airy, bittersweet pop of Maria Taylor and the buzzier, busier, frequently electronic sounds of Orenda Fink. The two have worked separately quite a bit in recent years — Taylor as a solo artist and Fink both solo and as half of O+S — but in Azure Ray, they still meet in the creamy, dreamy midpoint between their individual sounds.

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Newport Folk Festival
2:49 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Sharon Van Etten, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2012

Erik Jacobs for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 11:23 am

Nothing about the wounded confessionalism of Sharon Van Etten's early work even begins to portend rock stardom: All raw nerves and whispered coos, 2009's Because I Was in Love explores tiny, tentative moments with a sort of graceful vulnerability. Ever since, Van Etten has kept adding layers of sinew to her sound, to the point where she's become a bona fide blood-and-guts rock 'n' roll frontwoman.

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All Songs Considered Blog
11:17 am
Tue August 7, 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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All Songs Considered Blog
8:15 am
Tue August 7, 2012

Song Premiere: Stars, 'Backlines'

Stars' new album, The North, comes out Sept. 4.
Norman Wong

Originally published on Tue August 7, 2012 10:04 am

Predicting the sound of any given Stars song takes some doing: The Montreal band traffics in everything from joyfully guitar-driven power-pop to synth-based dance music to string-swept ballads that detail the heartbreaking minutiae of doomed romance. Even the lead voices shift from song to song, with Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell singing to, over and about each other, occasionally swapping verses.

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