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.

Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii

Genre: Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar

Hometown: Manchester, England

Genre: Dream Pop

Why We're Excited: Songwriters Heather Baron-Gracie and Ciara Doran love to mix elements of '80s pop into their dreamy, sparkling sound, but Pale Waves' songs feel remarkably fresh — in part because great hooks are great hooks, regardless of the era that inspired them. "Heavenly" is as gorgeous as it is infectious, which is saying something.

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Hometown: Silsbee, Texas

Genre: Indie Rock

Why We're Excited: In Lomelda, singer-songwriter Hannah Read reflects on isolation and distance, but there's nothing remote about her music. If anything, she seems compelled to pull listeners ever closer; to share sung secrets amid some of the most intoxicating liquid guitar lines you'll hear this year.

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Hometown: San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

Genre: Soca

Hometown: Montreal, Canada

Genre: Rock

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

Genre: Americana

Why We're Excited: A smart and gritty singer, songwriter and all-around wanderer who explores ideas surrounding the search for meaning and identity, Becca Mancari writes intimate songs with a cavernous quality to them. Listen to "Long Way Down," and you'll hear a voice equally suited to bold self-assertiveness and all-encompassing loneliness.

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Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

Genre: Americana

Why We're Excited: Lilly Hiatt writes about thorny aftermaths and cascading consequences, but her work is conceived and played with a full and generous heart. For every note of recrimination, there's a double-edged but ultimately kind appreciation like "Records," in which the singer lays bare her dependence on the music that's helped keep her sane and alive.

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Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Genre: Americana

Why We're Excited: At first, Dead Horses' songs can sound like simple back-porch roots music. But Sarah Vos and Daniel Wolff dig deeper than that, enriching their material with evocative, empathetic storytelling. Inspired in part by a difficult childhood — Vos grew up in a strict religious household, only to see her family expelled from its church when she was a teenager — Dead Horses' songs find her searching for meaning and connection.

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Genre: Folk Rock

Why We're Excited: Sometimes, the phrase "singer-songwriter" can't begin to capture how many different things a vocalist can do with a guitar in her hands. Haley Heynderickx's voice can embody nervy intensity, caustic strangeness or cooing beauty, while her songs never seem to take the same journey twice. In just three minutes, "Oom Sha La La" keeps popping down surprising side roads.

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Hometown: Canowindra, Australia

Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Why We're Excited: Simultaneously warm and cool, singer-songwriter Gordi (a.k.a. Sophie Payten) shares some creative DNA with Bon Iver: She's toured with the band, she records for its label, and she helped make a name for herself by releasing a hauntingly cavernous cover of "00000 Million." In "Heaven I Know," she swathes her voice in Imogen Heap-style effects, but her debut album (2017's Reservoir) also showcases a joyful side.

Hometown: Melbourne, Australia

Genre: Synth Pop

Why We're Excited: Georgia Flipo, who records under the name G Flip and has spent time as a drummer and backup singer with other acts, has yet to amass much of a solo discography — in fact, she's got exactly one single to her credit. Fortunately, that one single is "About You," a spry and springy hookfest that burrows into your subconscious in a matter of seconds.

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Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Genre: Roots Rock

Why We're Excited: Field Report's Christopher Porterfield got his start playing alongside Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all the way back in their DeYarmond Edison days, and now his Field Report project is getting its due after several strong albums. Summertime Songs slickens Porterfield's sound without sacrificing warmth or depth, as evidenced by the hooky, handclappy anthem "Never Look Back."

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Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Ezra Collective keeps one foot planted in traditional jazz but lets the other wander far and wide, bringing back rhythmic traces of hip-hop and Afrobeat. On the new Juan Pablo: The Philosopher EP, Ezra Collective sounds alternately taut and spacey in tunes that don't stay in one place long, let alone recede into the background.

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Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia exudes a kind of breezy, sultry, downtown cool — no surprise, given her history as a club DJ. On her debut, Nubya's 5ive, she and her band strike an engrossing balance between long stretches of dreamy exploration and surges of vital, virtuosic intensity.

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Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Genre: Americana

Why We're Excited: Collapsing Stars' languid folk songs are punctuated by forceful stabs of bluesy guitar — and, in the case of "The Storm," a few appropriate nature sounds. The effect can be whispery and beautiful, but the band's music maintains a welcome undercurrent of reflection, doubt and even dread.

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