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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Newport Folk Festival
12:30 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Lord Huron, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Meagan Beauchemin for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:47 pm

The L.A. band Lord Huron has figured out a way to blend the choirboy folk of a Fleet Foxes with the more roiling, polyrhythmic pursuits of a Vampire Weekend.

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Newport Folk Festival
12:12 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Spirit Family Reunion, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:46 pm

The Brooklyn band Spirit Family Reunion calls its sound "open-door gospel" — as in, gospel music that isn't tied to religion. It's another way of saying that the group plays wide-open songs of celebration, which in Spirit Family Reunion's case add up to a big, high-spirited, old-fashioned, appealingly playful folk-rock ramble, complete with vintage instruments and shout-along choruses performed around a single microphone.

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Newport Folk Festival
12:26 pm
Sun July 28, 2013

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:40 pm

It's not a stretch to call Frank Turner a folksinger, by any means, especially when he performs solo with an acoustic guitar. But he's also a rocker, a punk, a storyteller and an all-around delightful raconteur who sings self-deprecating songs about love, survival, debauchery, revolution and the many ways those topics intersect. Take away his backing players in The Sleeping Souls, and he still radiates the gale-force energy of a full band.

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Newport Folk Festival
11:53 am
Sun July 28, 2013

Langhorne Slim & The Law, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:38 pm

Pennsylvania native Sean Scolnick (a.k.a. Langhorne Slim) describes his own sound as "country punk," but it's not out of line to call him a sort of supercharged folksinger. He's got a big, ragged voice and a bigger personality — and little trouble grabbing a crowd's attention with raucous songs from his newest album, 2012's The Way We Move.

Hear Langhorne Slim and his band The Law perform as part of the 2013 Newport Folk Festival, recorded live on Saturday, July 27 in Newport, R.I.

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Newport Folk Festival
1:31 pm
Sat July 27, 2013

John McCauley, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:37 pm

In the hands of John McCauley — who initially founded the group Deer Tick as a solo project — playing rowdy, free-wheeling rock 'n' roll is a feat free of self-importance.

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Newport Folk Festival
11:55 am
Sat July 27, 2013

Phosphorescent, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Phosphorescent performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Adam Kissick NPR

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 9:04 am

  • Hear The Full Set: Phosphorescent At Newport

Raised in Alabama and based in Brooklyn, Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck makes moody, searching, raggedly pretty music that reflects the sounds of both his respective homes. But there's also a wise, homesick weariness to Houck's voice that transcends time and place: Listen at just the right time, and a Phosphorescent record feels like a warm conversation with a friend who understands loneliness.

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Newport Folk Festival
10:43 am
Sat July 27, 2013

Hey Marseilles, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:36 pm

The Seattle septet Hey Marseilles makes some of the most good-natured chamber-pop music around, led by the unmistakably kind voice of Matt Bishop. Naturally, given the band's size, Hey Marseilles gets to make the most of a wide array of warm sounds, from cello and viola to horns and accordions, but those ingredients are all wisely wrapped around songwriting that exudes sweet, hooky sunshine.

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Newport Folk Festival
8:48 am
Sat July 27, 2013

JD McPherson, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:35 pm

JD McPherson provides a refreshing reminder that retro roots music isn't timid: His debut album, Signs & Signifiers, synthesizes blues and rockabilly and old-school rock 'n' roll with an unmistakable punk spirit. Throughout the record, he finds the delicate balance between a classic, traditionalist sound and the understanding that the styles he's emulating are rooted in rebellion, menace and even danger.

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Newport Folk Festival
8:44 am
Sat July 27, 2013

Kingsley Flood, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 1:34 pm

The Boston band Kingsley Flood has spent the last few years polishing, refining and expanding its folk-rock sound, in the process incorporating horns, more strings and ever-brighter production. The sextet sounds more confident than ever on its new album, Battles, which continues to explore some of Kingsley Flood's favorite subject matter: the balance of hopes and dreams, expectations and the everyday.

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All Songs Considered
1:47 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

The Good Listener: Does Ignoring A Friend's Mix Make You A Bad Person?

Not every mix gets the loving attention we feel it deserves.
Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 5:25 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the aluminum-siding pamphlets disguised as jury summons is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a blistering rebuttal of last week's column.

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