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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SXSW: Live From Austin
6:41 pm
Sun March 17, 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 Tue April 16, 2013 2:44 pm

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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SXSW: Live From Austin
11:10 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Alt-J, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Alt-J lead vocalist Joe Newman gives his unique voice a break during the band's show at NPR Music's SXSW showcase at Stubb's in Austin.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:02 pm

  • Alt-J Recorded Live At Stubb's

Alt-J's Joe Newman has a funny way of singing — especially for the uninitiated, it can seem cartoonish or, worse, affected. He bends his high, twisty voice in strange ways, wrapping it around inventive arrangements that burble and boom and otherwise ramp up a sense of unease. The easiest way to embrace Alt-J's idiosyncratic charm is to witness the band live; to hear how often Newman sings quietly and subtly, and to get a fuller feel for the prettiness at the core of Alt-J's songs.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
11:09 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Youth Lagoon, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon performs at NPR Music's 2013 SXSW Showcase at Stubb's.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 9:00 am

A studio wizard still in his early 20s, Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers makes music that documents the spiraling uncertainty of a worried mind. It must have been tough to translate to the live stage, where the comfort and cover of the studio are stripped away and every fussy swirl has to be thoughtfully re-created or excised entirely.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
11:08 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Waxahatchee, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee performs at NPR Music's 2013 SXSW Showcase at Stubb's.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:03 pm

  • Waxahatchee, Recorded Live At Stubb's

If Katie Crutchfield ever becomes a solo star, it's hard to imagine how the Waxahatchee singer's most bruised and beautiful songs will translate to a gigantic stage. Tucked into a back room at Stubb's during SXSW on March 13 — and following in the immediate aftermath of Nick Cave's swaggering turn under the stars — Crutchfield opened her 25-minute set with a string of fragile solo songs, each more delicate than the last. This was interior music, made of guts and nerves and other viscera we don't share easily.

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All Songs Considered
3:50 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Baby Bands, Pop Stars And Room-Filling Joy: What To Expect At SXSW 2013

Twin Horns Of Joy? Members of the band The Bottom Dollars play on the street in Austin, Texas, during the opening night of the South by Southwest music festival.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 8:55 am

Listen to Stephen Thompson's conversation with Audie Cornish on All Things Considered by clicking the audio link.


The South by Southwest music festival kicked off Tuesday with the first of five straight nights of music overload: The clubs, makeshift music venues and front porches of Austin, Texas, were overrun with little-known discoveries-in-waiting and big names alike, as well as tens of thousands of fans who have flocked to the city in search of epiphanies.

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First Listen
11:09 am
Mon March 11, 2013

First Listen: Low, 'The Invisible Way'

Low's new album, The Invisible Way, comes out March 19.
Zoran Orlic Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 7:47 am

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

In 20 years, Low's basic ingredients haven't changed much: Guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker swap and sometimes layer their vocals, with a third member joining the married couple on bass. The pace, for the most part, is kept deliberate, even glacial, with strategically deployed silence hanging between notes in order to enhance their power. Low songs don't often change tempo noticeably, instead achieving tension through variations in volume.

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All Songs Considered
11:22 am
Thu March 7, 2013

We Get Mail: Picking The Perfect Travel Playlist

This little scamp gets ready for Norway's Trondheim Metal Fest by psyching himself up with the music of Napalm Death.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 1:14 pm

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SXSW: Live From Austin
1:42 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Dave Grohl's SXSW 2013 Keynote Speech

Dave Grohl gives the keynote speech at SXSW 2013.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 10:46 am

Somewhere along the way, Dave Grohl has become the unofficial Mayor of Rock 'n' Roll: a gregarious ambassador who wins armloads of Grammys and even directs a documentary — Sound City: Real to Reel — about the artistry, technology and magic that goes into making a great studio recording. So it makes sense that Grohl would address the assembled music fans at the SXSW music conference for the year's keynote speech.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
5:30 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

The Mix: The Austin 100

Molly Hamilton of Widowspeak is one of the 100 acts with songs in our annual SXSW sampler.
Loren Wohl for NPR

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 2:03 pm

Audio for The Austin 100 is no longer available.

It says a lot about SXSW's size and scope that this "sampler" of the annual music festival spans six and a half hours, but here we are: 100 songs by 100 artists worth discovering at this year's big event.

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First Listen
11:16 am
Mon March 4, 2013

First Listen: Devendra Banhart, 'Mala'

Devendra Banhart's new album, Mala, comes out March 12.
Ana Kras Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013 9:08 am

For a guy who gets tagged with a lot of limiting descriptors — "freak folk," "hippie" and so forth — Devendra Banhart doesn't like to let his music sit in any spot for long. His catalog, which now includes seven official albums, has taken him through warmly intimate ballads, raw and unselfconsciously strange home recordings, songs in several languages (Banhart spent much of his childhood in Venezuela), a lot of smoothly strummy folk-pop and the occasional low-key anthem about free-spiritedness.

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