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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The Record
3:00 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Jason Molina, A Folksinger Who Embodied The Best Of The Blues, Has Died

Steve Gullick Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 4:04 pm

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.

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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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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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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:46 pm
Mon January 14, 2013

Black Prairie: Tiny Desk Concert

Black Prairie performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Nov. 9, 2012.
Ryan Smith NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:44 pm

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.

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Music
2:22 pm
Mon December 24, 2012

Another Year, Another 'Christmas With The Chipmunks'

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

Originally published on Mon December 24, 2012 5:37 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Anaïs Mitchell: Tiny Desk Concert

Anais Mitchell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 23, 2012.
Lauren Rock NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 5:49 pm

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.

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All Songs Considered Blog
12:03 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

First Watch: Ben Sollee, 'Unfinished'

Ben Sollee's new album, Half Made Man, comes out Sept. 25.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 7:18 pm

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.

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Newport Folk Festival
6:15 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

The Tallest Man On Earth, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2012

Tallest Man On Earth performs at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival.
Erik Jacobs for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 10:19 am

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.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:03 am
Mon August 6, 2012

Beth Orton: Tiny Desk Concert

Michael Katzif NPR

Originally published on Fri August 10, 2012 1:26 pm

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.

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Newport Folk Festival
4:48 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Sara Watkins, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2012

Sara Watkins plays the Fort Stage at the Newport Folk Festival.
Erik Jacobs Erik Jacobs for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 10:15 am

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,

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