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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Field Recordings
8:37 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Cayucas: Sunlight In Song Form

NPR

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 1:42 pm

If you've ever been poolside on a hot day, you know what it's like to have your senses bombarded with leisure; to feel the sun radiating and shimmering off everything around you. Watch the first few moments of this Field Recording, with its bobbing inner tubes and lounging vacationers, and you can practically smell the spots where chlorine meets concrete. We filmed the band late one morning at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs — a setting that also produced an eager dancer, assorted rubberneckers and one particularly agreeable dog.

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All Songs Considered
12:09 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

We Get Mail: What To Do When You've Burned Out On Your Favorite Music

Listen enough, and you can even grow tired of Jeff Buckley's music. Once burnout sets in, how do you rekindle a musical love?
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:04 pm

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All Songs Considered
10:17 am
Thu April 25, 2013

We Get Mail: Should Parents Try To Get Their Kids Into Great Music?

How much should parents feel responsible for making sure their kids hear Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:05 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the solicitations disguised as tax refunds is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, what role parents can and should play in teaching their kids about classic albums.

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Music
7:52 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Jittery Jams: 10 Songs For Coffee Lovers

Frank Sinatra's "The Coffee Song" makes light of a perceived Brazilian coffee glut.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:46 am

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All Songs Considered
8:48 am
Thu April 11, 2013

We Get Mail: When Someone You Love Likes Music You Hate, What Do You Do?

If someone you love likes Jack Johnson, but you don't, how do you find common ground?
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:11 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the fruit baskets welcoming us to our new office is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how to reconcile a person you like with musical tastes you don't.

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All Songs Considered
6:30 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson Returns With A Plea To 'Make Good Choices'

Sean Nelson will release his first solo album, Make Good Choices, on June 4.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 1:05 pm

There'd be nothing wrong with "one-hit wonder" status if the term didn't suggest some sort of creative limitation; if people didn't assume that one hit means only one good song. But for Sean Nelson and Harvey Danger, the 1998 smash "Flagpole Sitta" has had a way of overshadowing the superior but less widely heard material that followed. By the time Harvey Danger self-released the tremendous 2005 album Little By Little..., the group's incisive, catchy, thoughtful post-hit songs were known mostly to obsessives and cultists.

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Thu March 28, 2013

We Get Mail: The Power Of Pulling The Plug

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:13 pm

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The Record
1:59 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Jason Molina, A Folksinger Who Embodied The Best Of The Blues, Has Died

Steve Gullick Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 3:04 pm

Blues music is supposed to be cathartic — a way to process and package pain in ways that make it palatable; to take our hurt and ache, set it outside ourselves, give it a tune and rhythm that makes it tangible and real yet somehow less terrifying.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
12:43 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

The New York trio performed their new single "Sacrilege" for the first time in front of an audience.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 1:01 pm

Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O pulls off one of the trickiest maneuvers in rock 'n' roll: the ability to appear utterly bonkers on stage while remaining in control of every chaotic outburst. The woman knows how to make an entrance, too: She emerged on stage at Stubb's in Austin — for the band's sole appearance at SXSW 2013 — clad in canary yellow, sporting a sparkly fez, giant eyeglasses, and a glittering scarf.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
12:42 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Nick Cave performs at Stubb's Bar-B-Q as part of NPR Music's 2013 SXSW Showcase.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 9:41 am

It began, appropriately enough, with a plea for darkness. Nick Cave may have opened his SXSW set in the twilight hours, but if anyone could will the night into being, it's the black-clad Australian star.

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