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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First Listen
11:02 pm
Sun February 2, 2014

First Listen: Cibo Matto, 'Hotel Valentine'

Cibo Matto's new album, Hotel Valentine, comes out Feb. 14.
Sean Lennon Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 1:52 pm

For many bands who return after long hiatuses, the absences melt away quickly. My Bloody Valentine, gone 22 years, put out an album last year that jumped directly from the sound of 1991's Loveless.

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All Songs Considered
10:46 am
Fri January 31, 2014

The Good Listener: Leave 'We Built This City' Alone!

Everyone piles on Starship's "We Built This City," at least in part, because it's too feeble to fight back.
George Rose Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 2:47 pm

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First Listen
11:02 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

First Listen: 'Sweetheart 2014'

Sweetheart 2014 comes out Feb. 4.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 10:21 am

Compiled by Starbucks every few years, the Sweetheart compilations adhere to a simple concept in which well-liked contemporary artists cover well-liked classic love songs just in time for Valentine's Day. But, more importantly, the collections revolve around a refreshing and consistent mindset: There are no arch piss-takes, no goofs, no skirting sincerity with a wink and a sneer. Even when an effort feels like a minor pairing or a failed experiment, goodwill carries the day.

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First Listen
11:02 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

First Listen: Jeremy Messersmith, 'Heart Murmurs'

Jeremy Messersmith's new album, Heart Murmurs, comes out Feb. 4.
Kyle Dean Reinford Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 4, 2014 10:22 am

Minneapolis singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith sings sweet, timeless songs about love, desire, death and grief — not, it would seem, the stuff of grandiose artistic ambition. And yet Messersmith stands out by trying harder, doing more and always reaching farther than it seems.

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All Songs Considered
12:44 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

The Good Listener: How Can I Conquer A Musical Blind Spot?

Devendra Banhart.
Courtesy of the artist

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All Songs Considered
2:13 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

The Good Listener: How Do You Know If You'll Love A Song Forever?

Oh, Carly Rae Jepsen. We knew it couldn't last.
Courtesy of the artist

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First Listen
11:01 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

First Listen: Warpaint, 'Warpaint'

Warpaint's self-titled album comes out Jan. 21.
Mia Kirby Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 11:58 am

A few years back, the band Low sold T-shirts emblazoned with a fine unofficial motto for its music: "I don't like cool, I like beautiful." For the four women who make up Warpaint, those two qualities aren't mutually exclusive: The L.A. group's swirling sound is full of mysterious buzzes and coos, and there's a sense of everything-in-its-right-place grace and impeccability to it, yet the songs themselves never feel icy or distant.

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First Listen
11:00 pm
Sun January 12, 2014

First Listen: Against Me!, 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues'

Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues comes out Jan. 21.
Ryan Russell Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 12:01 pm

The bracingly political Florida punk band Against Me! has been a going concern since 1997, but Transgender Dysphoria Blues can't help but feel like a debut: It's the group's first album since singer Tom Gabel came out as a woman. Now named Laura Jane Grace, she still barks her lyrics with fiercely assertive intelligence — with a voice as yet largely unchanged from the one in the band's earlier work — but Against Me!'s subject matter can't help but be turned on its head.

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All Songs Considered
2:45 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

The Good Listener: When Good Musicians Do Bad Things

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, seen here in 1968, had a relationship that offended many fans' sensibilities. But their complicated romantic history hasn't affected either's musical legacy.
Getty Images

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid a deluxe version of the Ashley Monroe record in which "deluxe" means "packed in a 10-pound wooden crate" is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how and whether to enjoy music by folks whose real-life actions offend us.

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First Listen
10:57 pm
Sun December 29, 2013

First Listen: Peter Gabriel, 'Scratch My Back ... And I'll Scratch Yours'

Peter Gabriel's new album, And I'll Scratch Yours, comes out Jan. 7.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun January 12, 2014 11:27 pm

These days, album-length covers collections tend to be minor footnotes in a musician's catalog, ranked somewhere just above live albums, holiday recordings and those greatest-hits packages that tack on one or two new songs. After all, covers albums at least seem as if they should be easy to assemble, in large part because they remove the artistic and logistical hurdle of writing songs. And, for their part, listeners tend to process them by way of comparison rather than raw appreciation.

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