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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Tiny Desk Concerts
1:19 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Dessa: Tiny Desk Concert

Dessa performs at a Tiny Desk Concert on Sept. 24, 2013.
Abbey Oldham Abbey Oldham/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 1:20 pm

Part of the Twin Cities hip-hop collective Doomtree, rapper, singer, poet and songwriter Dessa divides her time between singing and rapping, often landing on a spoken-word splitting of the difference.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat December 7, 2013

Sarah Jarosz: Tiny Desk Concert

Sarah Jarosz performs a Tiny Desk Concert in September 2013.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 2:25 pm

Bluegrass' most beloved pros often play well into their 80s and 90s, so it would surprise no one if our children's children's children turn up at a Sarah Jarosz concert 70 years from now. The singer and multi-instrumentalist first surfaced as an 18-year-old wunderkind with the release of 2009's Song Up In Her Head, which generated the first of what will likely be many Grammy nominations; now a grizzled 22, she's out performing songs from her fine new third album, Build Me Up From Bones.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:06 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

The Dismemberment Plan: Tiny Desk Concert

The Dismemberment Plan performs a Tiny Desk concert in October 2013.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 2:26 pm

When NPR Music started inviting musicians to perform at Bob Boilen's desk back in 2008, we never could have expected that we'd one day host The Dismemberment Plan. For one, the D.C.-area group had long since disbanded; for another, its fleshed-out and periodically funky sound wouldn't seem to lend itself to vastly stripped-down arrangements.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat November 16, 2013

John Legend: Tiny Desk Concert

John Legend performs at the Tiny Desk Concert on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.
Abbey Oldham Abbey Oldham/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 2:28 pm

At 34, John Legend has sold millions of records, won nine Grammys, collaborated with many of the biggest stars in music (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, The Roots, et al), and achieved the kind of statesmanlike musical-ambassador status usually afforded to artists twice his age.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 am
Sun November 3, 2013

Ashley Monroe: Tiny Desk Concert

Ashley Monroe performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in September 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:54 pm

In the last few years, Ashley Monroe has cobbled together an impressive country-music pedigree by working alongside both upstarts (Pistol Annies with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) and longtime Nashville veterans (Vince Gill produced Monroe's solo album Like a Rose), and even collaborating with Jack White every now

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Music
12:41 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

First Listen: The Avett Brothers, 'Another Is Waiting'

The Avett Brothers will release 'Magpie and the Dandelion' on Oct. 15.

It hasn't even been 11 full months since released The Carpenter, the North Carolina band's most recent collection of poignant and infectious, bluegrass-inflected folk-rock. And, given the lengthy touring cycle that each major album release generally spawns — the Avetts of last month's Newport Folk Festival with songs from The Carpenter — fans had no reason to expect new music this year.

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First Listen
5:08 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

First Listen: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, 'We The Common'

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down's new album, We the Common, comes out Feb. 5.
Lauren Tabak Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 3:08 pm

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
9:16 am
Thu March 15, 2012

Alabama Shakes, Live In Concert: SXSW 2012

The Alabama Shakes' lead singer, Brittany Howard, onstage at NPR Music's SXSW showcase at Stubb's Wednesday night.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 11:03 am

A staple of "Bands To Watch" lists far and wide, Alabama Shakes sure didn't shrink under the open Texas skies during NPR Music's 2012 SXSW showcase at Stubb's on Wednesday night. Armed with a bright new batch of songs from the forthcoming Boys & Girls — not to mention booming, shout-along standbys like "Hold On" — lead singer Brittany Howard seemed to feed off a crowd 2,000 strong and packed to the exits. Commanding the spotlight with a generous set worthy of a headliner, Alabama Shakes ought to get used to playing for this many people in years to come.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
9:15 am
Thu March 15, 2012

Dan Deacon, Live In Concert: SXSW 2012

Dan Deacon plays NPR Music's SXSW showcase at Stubb's Wednesday night.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 9:30 am

Few high-profile musicians could disappear into the SXSW crowd as seamlessly as Dan Deacon, who doesn't exactly cut a lithe, otherworldly, Mick Jagger-esque figure offstage.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
9:12 am
Thu March 15, 2012

Sharon Van Etten, Live In Concert: SXSW 2012

Sharon Van Etten plays NPR Music's SXSW showcase at Stubb's Wednesday night.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 10:27 am

Staring out across the sea of people crowding an outdoor band shell in Austin, Sharon Van Etten practically dared her audience to pipe down and listen as she held long, cooing notes. She had the guts to trot out tiny delicacies like the spare ballad "Kevin's Way," complemented perfectly by the gorgeous backing vocals of Heather Broderick.

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