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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Concerts
2:02 pm
Thu July 26, 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 Mon June 23, 2014 4:23 pm

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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All Songs Considered Blog
4:20 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Song Premiere: Meshell Ndegeocello With Valerie June, 'Be My Husband'

Meshell Ndegeocello.
Charlie Gross

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 10:35 am

The word "uneven" gets tossed around in critical parlance to signify artists whose fingers stray from the quality-control button — to suggest that they don't know their own genius when they hear it.

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All Songs Considered Blog
3:15 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Song Premiere: Two Gallants, 'My Love Won't Wait'

Eric Ryan Anderson

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 12:52 pm

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Live in Concert
6:05 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Best Coast In Concert

Best Coast, performing live at the 9:30 Club, in Washington, D.C.
Mike Katzif NPR

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 2:29 pm

When it first emerged in 2010, the California garage-pop band Best Coast was all primitive charm: The duo of singer-guitarist Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno used simplicity as a weapon, eschewing metaphor or nuance in favor of songs built around sentiments like "When I'm with you, I have fun" and "I wish he was my boyfriend." The hooks helped the songs verge on irresistibility, but the music was trifling by nature — songs built for the beach rather than the brain.

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First Listen
5:13 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

First Listen: The Gaslight Anthem, 'Handwritten'

The Gaslight Anthem's new album, Handwritten, comes out July 24.
Danny Clinch

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 5:23 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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All Songs Considered Blog
12:21 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

The xx Teases New Album 'Coexist' With The Simplest Of Love Songs

The xx will release Coexist on Sept. 11.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 1:20 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
11:52 am
Mon July 16, 2012

The Milk Carton Kids: Tiny Desk Concert

Emily Bogle NPR

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 1:43 pm

The history of folk and pop music is littered with gorgeous intertwined voices: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, The Jayhawks' Mark Olson and

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:11 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Laura Marling: Tiny Desk Concert

Nick Michael NPR

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 1:43 pm

When Tom Jones performed at the NPR Music offices in 2009, it felt like an exercise in cruelty: His Tiny Desk Concert took a larger-than-life icon, a superstar for whom intimacy is implied but impossible on a huge stage, and shrunk him to where every bead of sweat could be seen. Young English folksinger Laura Marling, on the other hand, lives for that sort of intimacy.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
10:39 am
Mon July 9, 2012

Brandi Carlile: Tiny Desk Concert

Blake Lipthratt NPR

It's possible to place countless movies and TV shows within a very specific time frame based on whether they feature certain songs: Baja Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out," Smash Mouth's "All Star" and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" all provide a form of pop-cultural carbon dating, as well as signifiers of a tone that's both specific and universal.

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All Songs Considered Blog
9:03 am
Tue July 3, 2012

Song Premiere: Om, 'Gethsemane'

Om.
Courtesy of the artist

It's always an adventure to ask NPR Music's resident metalhead and "outer sound" maven, Lars Gotrich, for song recommendations. Sometimes, doing so can lead down a path of impossible listening — banshee wails over blast beats, recorded inside what appears to be a toilet tank — but it can also lead to awesome epiphanies like Darkest Era or Deafheaven.

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