NPR: 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 All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the weekly NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the 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, four cats 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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4:29pm

Tue December 10, 2013
Music

Indie-Pop Albums That Make The Cut Are More Than Mere Collections

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 12:30 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

At NPR Music, they're wrapping up the year the best way they know how, with their hotly contested list of their 50 favorite albums of 2013. Now, all this week, we'll get a peak of that list from our in-house experts, including NPR Music writer and editor Stephen Thompson, whose beat is the ever amorphous indie pop, which - Stephen, what exactly is that these days?

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: I have absolutely no idea. It used to mean accessible but unpopular.

CORNISH: OK. So...

(LAUGHTER)

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9:52pm

Wed April 24, 2013
Music

Jittery Jams: 10 Songs For Coffee Lovers

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 2:46 am

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

5:35pm

Wed March 13, 2013
All Songs Considered

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

Originally published on Sat March 16, 2013 9:55 am

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

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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3:49pm

Fri February 8, 2013
Monkey See

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

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 1:11 am

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

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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3:22pm

Mon December 24, 2012
Music

Another Year, Another 'Christmas With The Chipmunks'

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 6:37 pm

The Chipmunks, left to right: Simon, Theodore, Alvin.
Courtesy of the artist

6:49am

Sat February 4, 2012
The Salt

This One's For The Chicken: A Super Bowl Party With A Purpose

Originally published on Sat February 4, 2012 10:00 am

Many will compete, but only one will be crowned Chicken Bowl champion this Sunday.
Photo illustration by NPR Staff

This Sunday will mark the 16th annual installment of "Chicken Bowl," my Super Bowl party, which doubles as a grand fried-chicken-eating contest. As many as 80 friends, coworkers, enablers and hangers-on will cram into my long-suffering house for this noble occasion.

But even with all the extravagances I've cobbled together to keep them happy — large TVs, vintage arcade machines, working toilets — there has never been a shred of doubt that chicken is king.

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11:30pm

Tue August 9, 2011
Music Interviews

Noah And The Whale: A Folk-Pop Band, Forever In Flux

Success hasn't come easily for Noah and the Whale, whose sound has changed constantly from album to album.
Courtesy of the artist

Noah and the Whale has inspired a devoted following ever since its first album landed in the British Top 10 in 2008. But success hasn't come easily for the group: Key members have left, prompting striking changes in Noah and the Whale's sound. In a span of just three years, it's released three very different albums.

"You need to be sort of brave, I guess, when you make a record," says Charlie Fink, the band's singer, guitarist and co-founder.

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10:00am

Mon June 20, 2011
Tiny Desk Concerts

The Decemberists: Tiny Desk Concert

Mito Habe-Evans NPR

"I was sort of always under the impression that these things were done while everybody was just trying to work," The Decemberists' Colin Meloy says a little ways into this Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices. "I kind of like the romance of that."

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11:00pm

Sun June 19, 2011
First Listen

First Listen: 'Rave On Buddy Holly'

Rave On Buddy Holly, a tribute to the rock 'n' roll pioneer, features Holly covers by Paul McCartney, The Black Keys, Patti Smith and many more. The album comes out June 28.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

The cover of Rave On Buddy Holly is wisely splashed with huge names, from Paul McCartney and Lou Reed to The Black Keys, Fiona Apple, Cee Lo Green and Modest Mouse.

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7:45am

Thu June 9, 2011
First Listen

First Listen: Bon Iver, 'Bon Iver'

Bon Iver comes out June 21.
D.L. Anderson

"Beth/Rest," the closing song on Bon Iver, is an absolutely diabolical bit of provocation.

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2:33pm

Wed June 8, 2011
Tiny Desk Concerts

The Black Angels: Tiny Desk Concert

Adele Hampton NPR

The Black Angels' music is hardly the stuff of stripped-down acoustic confessionals: It's the sound of a distant rumble, possibly beamed from a garage in the early '70s. So when we got word that the Austin-based psych-rock band would go acoustic for this Tiny Desk Concert in the NPR Music offices, a mystery was born: namely, "Huh?"

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11:32am

Mon June 6, 2011
Tiny Desk Concerts

The Kopecky Family Band: Tiny Desk Concert

Adele Hampton NPR

A few times a year, various representatives of NPR Music head off to music festivals, sometimes to webcast or broadcast the events and sometimes to scout for tomorrow's obsessions. The loftiest goal we set for our scouting jaunts — whether at South by Southwest in March or at CMJ in New York each fall — is to come home smitten with a new band or singer we'd never heard of a week earlier.

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10:38am

Thu June 2, 2011
Sasquatch Music Festival 2011

Sasquatch 2011: Noah And The Whale, Live In Concert

Noah and The Whale performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
James Bailey for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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4:29pm

Wed June 1, 2011
Sasquatch Music Festival 2011

Sasquatch 2011: Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Live In Concert

Rodrigo y Gabriela performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
Brittney Bush Bollay for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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2:10pm

Wed June 1, 2011
Sasquatch Music Festival 2011

Sasquatch 2011: Deerhunter, Live In Concert

Deerhunter performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
James Bailey for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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3:09pm

Tue May 31, 2011
Sasquatch Music Festival 2011

Sasquatch 2011: The Globes, Live In Concert

The Globes, on stage at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival
KEXP Alex Crick

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

A young pop-rock group on the cusp of a promising journey beyond its Pacific Northwest home, The Globes just released a moody but spirited full-length debut called Future Self. Formed in Spokane while its members were still teenagers, the group moved to Seattle just a few years ago and hooked up with the Barsuk label, whose tradition of sweet, smart, propulsive pop music houses The Globes' sound comfortably.

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10:54am

Tue May 31, 2011
Sasquatch Music Festival 2011

Sasquatch 2011: Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings, Live In Concert

Sharon Jones performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
Brittney Bush Bollay for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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9:57am

Tue May 31, 2011
Sasquatch Music Festival 2011

Wilco, Live In Concert: Sasquatch 2011

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 10:53 am

James Bailey for KEXP

Wilco never makes the same record twice, which makes it doubly remarkable that so many of them are tremendous. As formidable as frontman Jeff Tweedy's catalog is, the sonically inventive rock band really stands out on stage — the place where extreme technical skill meets the chemistry and rousing showmanship of passionate rock veterans. Of course, it helps that the group has the luxury of drawing highlights from seven very different records when it performs.

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9:55am

Tue May 31, 2011
Sasquatch Music Festival 2011

The Decemberists, Live In Concert: Sasquatch 2011

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 10:59 am

Colin Meloy of The Decemberists performs at Sasquatch Music Festival 2011.
James Bailey for KEXP

The Decemberists must have brainstormed many ways to follow the massively ambitious, best-selling 2008 "folk opera" The Hazards of Love: After all, not every Decemberists album can feature a large supporting cast, interlocking narratives and a generous body count. The hyper-literate Portland, Ore., band made a canny move in simplifying its attack on this year's The King Is Dead, which focuses on Colin Meloy's gift for bright, infectious roots-folk songwriting.

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5:23pm

Mon May 30, 2011
Live From Sasquatch 2011

Sasquatch 2011: Wavves, Live In Concert

Wavves performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
James Bailey for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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6:44pm

Sun May 29, 2011
Live Now: Webcast From Sasquatch Music Festival

Sasquatch 2011: Iron And Wine, Live In Concert

Iron & Wine performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
James Bailey for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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1:20pm

Sun May 29, 2011
Live Now: Webcast From Sasquatch Music Festival

Sasquatch 2011: Aloe Blacc, Live In Concert

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 10:48 am

Aloe Blacc performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
James Bailey for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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1:08pm

Sun May 29, 2011
Live Now: Webcast From Sasquatch Music Festival

Sasquatch 2011: Wye Oak, Live In Concert

Wye Oak performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
James Bailey for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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11:17am

Sun May 29, 2011
Live Now: Webcast From Sasquatch Music Festival

Sasquatch 2011: k-os, Live In Concert

Originally published on Sun May 29, 2011 2:12 pm

k-os performs live at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
Brittney Bush Bollay for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

A genre-hating musician with roots everywhere from Toronto to Trinidad, k-os lets his music sprawl across the disparate worlds of hip-hop, reggae, electronic music, indie rock, soul and so on. As such, it's tough to place him within any given scene — which is no doubt what he had in mind — but k-os' socially conscious songwriting and charisma have helped him win a crop of loyal fans anyway. His newest album is 2009's Yes!

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9:59pm

Sat May 28, 2011
Live Now: Webcast From Sasquatch Music Festival

Sasquatch 2011: Rebecca Gates And The Consortium, Live In Concert

Rebecca Gates performs at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
James Bailey for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

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9:49pm

Sat May 28, 2011
Live Now: Webcast From Sasquatch Music Festival

Sasquatch 2011: Local Natives, Live In Concert

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 2:29 pm

Local Natives perform at the 2011 Sasquatch Music Festival.
Alex Crick for KEXP

Language Advisory: This is a live concert recording, and may not contain language suitable for all audiences.

One of the breakout bands of 2010, the L.A.-based quintet Local Natives plays briskly infectious, harmony-rich folk-pop music that benefits greatly from its propulsive, Afrobeat-inspired rhythms. But Local Natives' songs aren't just pretty empty vessels: Its young members have a knack for lyrics that exude genuine thoughtfulness.

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11:02pm

Sun May 22, 2011
First Listen

First Listen: Death Cab For Cutie, 'Codes And Keys'

Death Cab for Cutie's new album, Codes and Keys, comes out May 31.
Danny Clinch

Death Cab for Cutie's music has long had a certain innocence to it; a boyish, vulnerable charm that feels unmistakably collegiate. When the Bellingham, Wash., band broke big in the early '00s, its records played like the soundtracks to breathless long-distance romances between young adults who'd always been just a little too smart for the rooms they were in.

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11:01pm

Sun May 22, 2011
First Listen

First Listen: My Morning Jacket, 'Circuital'

My Morning Jacket's new album, Circuital, comes out May 31.
Danny Clinch

My Morning Jacket has been tricky to peg lately, especially after the 2008 release of Evil Urges, which saw the band's cavernous rock sound sprawl out to include absurd forays into loopy funk. At its best, Evil Urges is a monster, but it's not exactly consistent.

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10:40pm

Sun May 22, 2011
Tiny Desk Concerts

Low: Tiny Desk Concert

Adele Hampton NPR

It's been fascinating to watch the evolution of the Duluth, Minn., band Low in the 17 years since the release of its wonderful debut album, I Could Live in Hope. Renowned for being one of the slowest and quietest acts in indie-rock, Low has nevertheless found ways to experiment with new ways to sound alternately (and even simultaneously) swoony and unnerving.

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1:45pm

Thu May 19, 2011
All Songs Considered Blog

Final Encore: Pick Your Song For The End Of The World

What single song do you plan to play when and if the End Times arrive on Saturday?
AFP/Getty Images

[Note: Christian radio host Harold Camping (and others) say the Rapture — in which God separates the wicked from the good — will take place this Saturday, with the end of the world to soon follow.]

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