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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All Songs Considered
2:35 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Wear Headphones In Public?

As Melissa McCarthy's etiquette-minded character in Bridesmaids demonstrates, there's nothing wrong with wearing headphones on an airplane.
Suzanne Hanover Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 6:33 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the monthly bale of sunflower seeds we've decided to order from Amazon Prime via subscription is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for advice on when and where it's courteous to wear headphones in public.

Brian Bowen writes via Facebook: "When is it OK to wear headphones in public — in transit, at work, during events large or small, standing in line at the post office, etc.?"

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:37 am
Sat August 17, 2013

Mother Falcon: Tiny Desk Concert

Mother Falcon performs a Tiny Desk Concert in July 2013.
Hayley Bartels NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:16 pm

When it comes to Tiny Desk Concerts, we're suckers for milestones at NPR Music: We're gearing up to acknowledge No. 300, for example, and are constantly taking note of the first time a musician trots out a particular rare instrument or does something else no one has done in front of us before.

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All Songs Considered
2:06 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Program A Dance Party For Kids?

Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Alpine: Tiny Desk Concert

Alpine performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:17 pm

Alpine's music doesn't instantly present itself as Tiny Desk material: The Australian sextet crafts busily impeccable pop music with a danceable sway, prominent synths and the charming shared lead vocals of Phoebe Baker and Lou James. That's a lot of ingredients to strip down to a semi-acoustic set in the NPR Music offices; there's virtually no margin for error.

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Monkey See
10:20 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'The Bridge' And The Doctor's Many Faces

NPR

For one more week, our host and pal Linda Holmes has been roaming the desolate plains of Los Angeles at the Television Critics Association press tour, with only catered lunches and lavishly appointed meet-and-greets to provide sustenance.

So the rest of the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang must soldier on in her absence, with the aid of a scrappy young newcomer who'd been waiting for her big break in front of a microphone: All Things Considered co-host Audie Cornish. We predict big things for Audie at NPR!

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Newport Folk Festival
9:32 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Jim James, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Jim James has spent his career singing big, booming songs that echo into the sky. With My Morning Jacket, he specializes in letting his gigantic voice ring out past the rafters in songs that boom and blare. But on his first solo album under his own name, this year's Regions of Light and Sound of God, James turns inward and recasts himself as a lost wanderer in search of redemption, salvation and comfort.

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All Songs Considered
2:17 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Break Into Music Journalism?

The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Sat August 10, 2013 9:12 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the heavily taped packages that can't be opened without the aid of a utility knife and a blowtorch is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: an array of tips for anyone hoping to launch and sustain a career in music journalism.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Song Premiere: The Avett Brothers, 'Another Is Waiting'

The Avett Brothers will release Magpie and the Dandelion on Oct. 15
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 8:46 am

It hasn't even been 11 full months since The Avett Brothers released The Carpenter, the North Carolina band's most recent collection of poignant and infectious, bluegrass-inflected folk-rock.

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All Songs Considered
8:03 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Stars: 'Wishful' Thinking In A Fizzy New Song

Stars will release a new 7" single, "Wishful"/"The Light," on Sept. 10.
Norman Wong

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 9:08 am

The Montreal pop band Stars wears many faces, literally and figuratively: Singers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell swap lead vocals in songs that range from effervescent pop-rock to grandiose dance music to melancholy, string-enhanced dirges. With so much to choose from in the group's toolbox, a few gems are bound to get left off its records — a wrong Stars will help right with a new single next month.

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Newport Folk Festival
8:03 am
Tue August 6, 2013

The Mountain Goats, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Members of the Mountain Goats perform live at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Adam Kissick NPR

Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 9:32 pm

  • Hear The Mountain Goats At Newport

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle spent the 1990s recording his songs — just a voice, an acoustic guitar and bracingly articulate lyrics about catastrophe and survival — on low-fidelity equipment like boom boxes. It got to the point where the tape hiss felt like another instrument, but in the last decade, the Mountain Goats' music has become ever more polished.

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