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.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


For nearly 20 years, guitarist, singer and label head John Dwyer has followed an incredibly circuitous creative path: Charting the course of just one of his bands involves breaking down a discography that includes records by Orinoka Crash Suite, OCS, Orange County Sound, The Ohsees, The Oh Sees and, now, Thee Oh Sees. (This says nothing of his work with other groups around San Francisco, most notably Coachwhips.)

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Blind Pilot and the Tiny Desk series both launched in the same year, 2008, so it's hard to comprehend how the two hadn't converged until now: The band's shimmery folk-pop sound, with its vibraphone and overarching vibrancy, is perfectly suited to the space behind Bob Boilen's desk.

It's common practice for musicians to sing the struggles of everyday people: underdogs and strivers who work for the weekend, love and protect their families, and struggle to stay one step ahead of the boss and the bill collector. But everyday people aren't monolithic, and some stories are told far more often than others.

Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez met as a songwriting team in Nashville, only to move to L.A., get married and have a baby. Those may scan as simple biographical details, but every one of them is reflected in the music the two make together under the name Johnnyswim. Their sparkly pop songs exude L.A.

Ever since his early teens, songwriting has come fairly quickly to Conor Oberst. Whether as a solo artist, with Bright Eyes, in Desaparecidos, or in the supergroup Monsters Of Folk, he's stayed steadily prolific while performing with nervy intensity at every stop on his winding and unpredictable career path.

Sometimes album titles really do say it all: A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings, the second full-length album by the Philly rock band Beach Slang, pulls off exactly what it promises.

"I use the same voice I always have," Hamilton Leithauser sings in the chorus of "Sick As A Dog," and he's got a point: The former Walkmen frontman is instantly identifiable, whether he's singing with his old band, working as a solo artist or, in this case, recording with Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij under the name Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam.

When he first surfaced as a solo artist four or five years ago, singer and multi-instrumentalist K. Ishibashi specialized in piecing together an intricately looped sound, centered on violin samples he'd recorded live, cut to ribbons and re-purposed to head-spinning effect.

From breakups to moves to midlife crises, major change has done wonders for the creative process.

Kentucky singer-songwriter Joan Shelley, working with the gifted guitarist Nathan Salsburg, made my favorite album of 2015: Over And Even, a collection of dreamy, gorgeous folk songs that exude comfort and calm.

As Joseph, sisters Allison, Meegan and Natalie Closner sing in tight harmony, fitting stylistically alongside fellow sister acts like First Aid Kit, Haim, The Staves and Lily & Madeleine.

Lisa Hannigan was introduced to the world alongside fellow Irish singer Damien Rice, whose debut album O featured her lilting, haunting voice. In the nearly 15 years since, Hannigan has stepped ever more confidently into a leading role, most notably on her own Sea Sew (2008) and Passenger (2011), but also as a featured performer in the Oscar-winning score for the 2013 film Gravity.

On this week's episode of All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen and guest host Stephen Thompson play new music from Regina Spektor, experimental rap from Clipping, which features Daveed Diggs of Hamilton, and a great synth track from singer-songwriter Lowell.

In honor of MTV's 35th birthday Monday, the network has launched MTV Classic, a new channel featuring programming from the '90s and '00s. On the same day, we also wish a happy birthday to NPR Music and Pop Culture Happy Hour's Stephen Thompson, who celebrates with an interview on All Things Considered about how MTV Classic is redefining which popular culture fits into the current environment for nostalgia.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

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