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, his girlfriend, their 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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

The charming roots-folk band Black Prairie got its start as an outlet for The Decemberists' Chris Funk and Nate Query, who wanted an outlet for some of their rootsy, mostly instrumental string-band wanderings.

Her voice is soft and sweet, her guitar work deft and evocative, but Anaïs Mitchell is a songwriting storyteller first and foremost. Robbed of a gift for melody and poetry, Mitchell would probably (and may yet) write some tremendous novels.

Ben Sollee is a classically trained cellist whose forays into Americana have led him to work with Abigail Washburn, Bela Fleck and Daniel Martin Moore.

Kristian Matsson, the smallish Swede who performs under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth, sings, plays guitar and occasionally takes a turn at the piano. That's all there is to his act: no backing band, no frills. Heck, he barely needs amplification, given the volume at which he performs. But that right there — the gigantic force of his delivery, the percussive hyper-dexterity of his playing — is part of what makes him so magnetic on stage. On paper, he's just another poet strumming a guitar.

English singer-songwriter Beth Orton is one of the best-known practitioners of a subgenre in which folk songs are set to electronic beats — it's a sound she employed to popular and powerful effect throughout the late '90s and early '00s, on hit albums such as Trailer Park, Central Reservation and Daybreaker.

Sara Watkins isn't the flashiest of singing stars, but she's already carved out a remarkable career: She got her start as a kid with Chris Thile and her brother Sean in the heavily decorated, platinum-selling Nickel Creek, and has since gone on to perform with The Decemberists,

The last band to open for Levon Helm before his death earlier this year, Brooklyn's Spirit Family Reunion crafts a sweetly ramshackle Americana sound that's part secular gospel revival, part folk ramble.

The young Swedish sisters in First Aid Kit got their break when their cover of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" became a gigantic hit on YouTube, attracting three million views and many comparisons to, well, Fleet Foxes.

The history of folk and pop music is littered with gorgeous intertwined voices: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, The Jayhawks' Mark Olson and

When Tom Jones performed at the NPR Music offices in 2009, it felt like an exercise in cruelty: His Tiny Desk Concert took a larger-than-life icon, a superstar for whom intimacy is implied but impossible on a huge stage, and shrunk him to where every bead of sweat could be seen. Young English folksinger Laura Marling, on the other hand, lives for that sort of intimacy.

It's possible to place countless movies and TV shows within a very specific time frame based on whether they feature certain songs: Baja Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out," Smash Mouth's "All Star" and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' "Home" all provide a form of pop-cultural carbon dating, as well as signifiers of a tone that's both specific and universal.

The reliable backup singer who seizes the spotlight is the stuff of entertainment-industry fairy tales, but Kelly Hogan hasn't actually had to labor in obscurity.

Today in "They Pay Us To Do This": a performance by South Africa's Soweto Gospel Choir, which managed to tie the all-time record for most musicians squashed behind Bob Boilen's desk for a single performance in the NPR Music offices.

Kathleen Edwards isn't a flashy singer-songwriter, but her music sticks: Easygoing and accessible, her songs burrow in deep and then stay put. Edwards' new album, Voyageur, wears a lot of sonic flourishes well — it was co-produced by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, who lends it a lot of his distinct shadings — but at its heart lies a sort of unshakable sturdiness.

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.