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
9:32 am
Wed November 21, 2012

We Get Mail: How Much Music Is Too Much Music?

With so much new music, who has time to listen to this? And with all this old music, who has time to listen to the new stuff?
passetti via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:29 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and tucked into the piles of new CDs is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. In this holiday-shortened week of over-indulgence, we answer questions about too much music and not enough time.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
12:03 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Ben Gibbard: Tiny Desk Concert

Benjamin Gibbard performs a Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR Music offices on Nov. 8, 2012.
Lauren Rock NPR

Originally published on Mon November 19, 2012 1:17 pm

Ben Gibbard has spent so much time at the head of various bands — Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, All-Time Quarterback — that it's easy to forget how well his sweetly brainy songs work in a solo acoustic setting. His melodies are sturdy enough to withstand skeletal arrangements, and though his persona is unassuming by nature, he remains a charismatic and charming live performer.

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All Songs Considered
4:01 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Song Premiere: Ra Ra Riot, 'Beta Love'

Ra Ra Riot.
Shervin Lainez Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 8:46 am

Ra Ra Riot has experienced constant change in its six-year existence, from commercial success and an aborted label deal to the 2007 death of drummer John Pike. But the band's sound has never shifted as radically as it does on its new album, Beta Love, which comes out Jan. 22. With the departure of cellist Alexandra Lawn — there's that constant change again — Ra Ra Riot shifts gears once more, dialing down the string arrangements in favor of a more synth-driven sound.

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Field Recordings
11:17 am
Thu November 8, 2012

The Civil Wars: A Song Of Loyalty, Before It's Tested

Mito Habe-Evans NPR/KEXP

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 7:17 am

Joy Williams and John Paul White call their Grammy-winning band The Civil Wars, but the two have built a gentle, harmony-rich folk-pop sound in which warm chemistry more than counteracts the tension under the music's surface. Though not a couple themselves — each is married, and Williams just had a baby — they convey many hallmarks of a loving union, particularly in the way she stares at him sweetly as they sing.

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All Songs Considered
11:35 am
Wed November 7, 2012

We Get Mail: How To Make A Mixtape Without Looking Like A Creeper

Artwork for Every Breathe You Take: The Singles by The Police.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:32 pm

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Field Recordings
8:45 am
Thu November 1, 2012

Allen Stone: A Rollicking Moment, Performed On The Wind

Allen Stone, right, accompanied by Trevor Larkin perform for a Field Recordings video backstage at Sasquatch! Music Fest
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 1:37 pm

"I feel like Zeus," Allen Stone announces with a laugh as gusts of wind whip his long hair in dramatic fashion. With a mountainous vista behind him, he's found himself in the kind of majestic rock 'n' roll moment that requires a callout to Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone" — is there ever a bad time to invoke The Log? — seeing as how it takes place during the 2012 Sasquatch! Music Festival in rural Washington state.

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Song Premiere: Haley Bonar, 'Bad Reputation'

Haley Bonar.
Courtesy of the artist

Haley Bonar has been crafting gorgeous, stately pop and wounded ballads for more than a decade now, and her fans still often find themselves explaining, "It's pronounced Bonner." At this point, Bonar deserves to have people pronounce her name correctly and then some, because she's a remarkable performer, with a terrific ear for detail and a gift for masking melancholy observations with hooks that stick.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
12:03 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Passion Pit: Tiny Desk Concert

Passion Pit performs on Tiny Desk on Oct. 15.
Ryan Smith Ryan Smith/NPR

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 10:21 am

Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos is a fussy sonic craftsman: A keyboardist and singer who started out working solo on his laptop, he now makes fizzily catchy electro-pop that orbits around monster hooks. He's not, in other words, the first musician you'd associate with a stripped-down performance behind NPR Music's Tiny Desk, where Technicolor production tends to give way to unfiltered voices and bare instrumental essentials.

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All Songs Considered
9:46 am
Fri October 26, 2012

Song Premiere: Neighbors, 'New Century'

Neighbors.
Courtesy of the artist

There's something strangely hypnotic and charming about "New Century," an immensely infectious bummer from Neighbors, which consists of a guy named Noah Stitelman and anyone else who happens to be around to help. For all of Stitelman's fretful miserablism — "I wanna lie down and hide in the dark 'til I don't have to figure it out," he sings early on — Neighbors' music is steeped in smoothly pleasing brightness. If anyone out there remembers the D.C.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:08 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Dirty Three: Tiny Desk Concert

Dirty Three plays a Tiny Desk Concert on Sept. 24.
Lauren Rock NPR

Every member of Dirty Three has a highly respectable career outside of the band: Violinist Warren Ellis works closely with Nick Cave, drummer Jim White is a sought-after collaborator with an instantly recognizable sound, and guitarist Mick Turner has released a string of gorgeous instrumental solo albums when he's not working as a visual artis

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