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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First Listen
3:17 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

First Listen: Chelsea Light Moving, 'Chelsea Light Moving'

Chelsea Light Moving's self-titled debut comes out March 5.
Carlos van Hijfte Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 6:55 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

In the chorus to Chelsea Light Moving's "Heavenmetal," Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore offers a moment of uplift to set the tone for his new band's self-titled debut: "Be a warrior — love life." But from there, Moore and his new bandmates set out to pulverize and polarize.

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First Listen
3:17 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

First Listen: Shout Out Louds, 'Optica'

Shout Out Louds' new album, Optica, comes out Feb. 26.
Frode & Marcus Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 6:11 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

Say what you will about some of the biggest songs of the 1980s — go ahead and badmouth electric pianos, and by all means bemoan the prevailing production quality — but the decade continues to cast a long shadow over popular music. Given its enduring popularity on dance floors and on radios, not to mention the rise of '80s-emulating singers like Gotye, you could do far worse than look to that decade for tips on connecting with audiences.

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All Songs Considered
12:44 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

It's Valentine's Day, So Here's A Gorgeous Love Song By Rhye

Rhye's debut album, Woman, comes out March 5.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 12:25 pm

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All Songs Considered
12:42 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

We Get Mail: Music To Help You Ignore Valentine's Day Altogether

Sometimes our hearts are neither broken nor bright on Valentine's Day. The indifferent need a soundtrack, too!
erin m via Flickr

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 1:19 pm

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All Songs Considered
12:41 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Song Premiere: Take A 'Tofutti' Break With A Wonderful Oddball

The Heligoats.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 2:54 pm

In concerts, The Heligoats' Chris Otepka spends a good deal of time explaining his songs, often introducing them with strange, funny, byzantine stories that somehow serve as functional explanations for the words he's about to sing.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
9:34 am
Wed February 13, 2013

The xx: Tiny Desk Concert

The xx performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 29, 2013.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:42 pm

It's easy to think of The xx as a fashionable band: Its members have a sleek all-in-black look, its typography and cover art is coolly and distinctively styled, and the group itself has been showered with validation, including Britain's 2010 Mercury Prize. But beneath all that tightly controlled image-making lays music that's raw and vulnerable; shy, worried tentativeness is wired into a sound that shimmers powerfully, but remains as fragile and delicate as a soap bubble.

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First Listen
9:01 am
Wed February 13, 2013

First Listen: 'Son Of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys'

Keith Richards collaborates with Tom Waits in "Shenandoah" for Son of Rogues Gallery, out Feb. 19.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 7:40 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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First Listen
9:01 am
Wed February 13, 2013

First Listen: Ivan & Alyosha, 'All The Times We Had'

Ivan & Alyosha's first full-length album, All the Times We Had, comes out Feb. 26.
Kyle Dean Reinford Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 6:18 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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Monkey See
2:49 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Play-By-Play: Read Along With The Grammy Awards

Taylor Swift gives the opening performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday in Los Angeles.
Christopher Polk Getty Images for NARAS

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 12:11 am

With the conclusion of Sunday night's ceremony, Linda Holmes and I have now live-blogged fully one-eleventh of the Grammy Awards' 55 annual incarnations. Below is our original post and an archived live blog of the telecast:

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First Listen
12:09 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

First Listen: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, 'Push The Sky Away'

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' new album, Push the Sky Away, comes out Feb. 19.
Cat Stevens Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 7:38 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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