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
10:55 am
Sun July 28, 2013

Justin Townes Earle, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Meagan Beauchemin for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 2:44 pm

Justin Townes Earle has marinated in outlaw country music his whole life: The son of Steve Earle, named for the legendary Townes Van Zandt, was born to be an iconoclast.

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Newport Folk Festival
10:45 am
Sun July 28, 2013

Shovels & Rope, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Meagan Beauchemin NPR

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 2:39 pm

Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent have spent the last decade or so singing sweetly, rowdily anthemic folk-country music together, most recently under the name Shovels & Rope. But the South Carolina husband-and-wife duo has only recently begun to take off on a national scale, thanks to a string of fantastically stirring live performances and a fi

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Newport Folk Festival
3:08 pm
Sat July 27, 2013

Hurray For The Riff Raff, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013

Hurray For The Riff Raff performs at the 2013 Newport Folk Festival.
Meagan Beauchemin NPR

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 4:10 pm

The New Orleans band Hurray for the Riff Raff exists as a vehicle for the powerhouse songs of singer-songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra, whose gigantic voice conveys the grit of bluesy soul while still fitting within the realms of rootsy folk and country. The group just followed its dynamite 2012 album Look Out Mama with a Kickstarter-funded collection of covers (and two originals) called My Dearest Darkest Neighbor.

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Music
2:14 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

5 New Faces Of Folk, At The 2013 Newport Folk Festival

Alynda Lee Segarra records as Hurray For The Riff Raff, one of the emerging acts making its debut at the Newport Folk Festival this year.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 5:16 pm

The Newport Folk Festival's history is dotted with historic moments involving musical icons — Bob Dylan plugging in jumps immediately to mind. But, while organizers still take care to stack each festival with huge names and star veterans, the margins are smartly and lovingly curated, too. The 2013 Newport Folk Festival is no different, with an impressive slate of boundary-pushers and genre-eschewers. Here are five of the newest and most promising faces, with a downloadable song from each.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
4:00 am
Sat July 20, 2013

Cheyenne Mize: Tiny Desk Concert

Cheyenne Mize performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 16, 2013.
Marie McGrory NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:21 pm

In the years since she first surfaced as a suitably rustic duet partner for Will Oldham — the two Kentuckians released an EP together back in 2010 — Cheyenne Mize has broadened and deepened her sound, injecting it with slinkiness and sparkle. Her new album Among the Grey continues that evolution, bringing out the lushness in songs that can shimmer prettily or punch with the force of a PJ Harvey.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Sat July 13, 2013

Frank Turner: Tiny Desk Concert

Frank Turner performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in June.
Hayley Bartels NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:22 pm

Frank Turner writes folk songs that harness the fury of punk and the majesty of Springsteenian rock 'n' roll. But more than anything else, his music is playful: There's conversational wit and bite to Turner's music, even as he's bellowing to the back rows. His songs lose little when you strip away electric instruments and leave the entertainment value to a single skinny, tattooed guy with an acoustic guitar.

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What's New?
4:20 pm
Sun July 7, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Pick The Songs For Your Wedding?

Don't let a slow, introspective song crash your wedding reception.
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 11:11 am

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What's New?
9:23 am
Fri June 28, 2013

The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Hold Seats At A Festival?

These Newport Folk Festival fans knew well enough to position themselves a ways back from the stage.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 12:53 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the flyers from reputable debt-consolidation companies is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a vexing piece of concert-going etiquette.

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Music
8:52 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 1:46 am

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SXSW: Live From Austin
6:47 am
Sat April 6, 2013

Café Tacvba, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

Cafe Tacvba performs at the NPR Music 2013 SXSW Showcase at Stubb's on Wednesday March 13, 2013.
Adam Kissick for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 7:59 am

A playful, electronics-infused Mexican rock band, Café Tacvba found itself in an unusual spot on the Stubb's stage at SXSW on March 13: namely, bookended by Nick Cave and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, both of whom roll around seductively in far seedier corners of rock 'n' roll. Singing in Spanish to a largely English-language crowd, singer Rubén Albarrán had to get his points across through giddiness-induced goodwill, not to mention the live-wire showmanship of a rock star with a 20-year pedigree.

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