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.

SXSW Music Preview

Mar 10, 2019

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The annual South by Southwest music festival is our personal endurance challenge to discover as many great unknown and often unsigned bands as possible in just one week. To train for the event, Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson and I listen to more than a thousand songs by bands playing the festival, from all over the world, and try to map out a calendar to see our favorites.

Hometown: San José, Costa Rica

Genre: Global

Hometown: New Taipei City, Taiwan

Genre: Avant-Garde

Hometown: Dublin, Ireland

Genre: Rock

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Genre: Rock

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Genre: Hip-Hop

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Rock

Hometown: Ashaiman, Ghana

Genre: Global

Why We're Excited: Dancehall and reggae star Stonebwoy has broken out well beyond his home country of Ghana: He's collaborated with the likes of Sean Paul, won a BET Award (for Best International Act: Africa) and found a worldwide following for a string of springy, Afropop-inflected crossover hits. Among his most recent singles, the relentlessly catchy "Top Skanka" sounds poised to cross over to U.S. audiences whose pop-music world keeps getting more expansive.

Hometown: Salvador, Brazil

Genre: Global

Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Ariel Engle is a recent addition to the Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, filling a role once held by Leslie Feist. Listen to her work as La Force, and you'll hear one clear reason the band thought of her to fill the bill: She's got that same smoky, haunting vibe, landing somewhere between detachment and almost discomfiting intimacy. To delve into "Lucky One" is to hang on her every lushly appointed, impeccably controlled word.

Hometown: Oakland, California

Genre: Rock

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Rock

The Austin 100

Mar 5, 2019

Every year in March, thousands of musicians from around the world converge on Texas' capital city for the SXSW Music Festival. It's a remarkable banquet of music discovery that spans many genres, most continents, dozens of clubs across Austin, hundreds of parties and nearly a full week. It's a lot to digest, even for festival veterans. (2019 will be my 23rd year at SXSW.)

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


Editor's note: The album cover art on this page contains nudity.

When you're filling out your Oscar pool, there are always a few boxes everyone checks. Maybe it's a performance that's swept every other awards show, or maybe it's a movie that seems to have every possible metric on its side. But when you check that box, you know you're virtually guaranteed to get at least one right.

Our picks for the best albums out this week include an epic treatise on Americanism from Gary Clark Jr., the delicate and beautiful sounds of Julia Jacklin, Atlanta rapper Gunna, a gorgeous study in the healing powers of restraint from Lowland Hum, and more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Rodney Carmichael and Stephen Thompson as they share their top picks for Feb. 22.

Featured Albums

  • Gary Clark Jr., This Land
    Featured Song: "Gotta Get Into Something"

We made it, everyone! This year's Grammy Awards telecast rolled past the three-and-a-half-hour mark with its share of controversies, but also served up a string of satisfying winners, memorable performances and a GIF sure to endure until roughly the moment life on earth is extinguished. Here are 10 takeaways from 2019's overstuffed and idiosyncratic Grammy Awards.

Whatever you think of the Grammy Awards, they do provide an intriguing snapshot of how the music industry wishes to see itself — particularly in terms of its chosen standard-bearers. In one three-and-a-half-hour flurry of awards and performances, you'll get a cross-genre infomercial and, if you curate your Twitter feed right, an evening-long feast of social-media jokes and commentary.

On this sprint through the week's best new albums, host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Lyndsey McKenna and Stephen Thompson for a whole lot of guitar rock, with a little bit of melancholy, acoustic beauty on the side. This includes Spielbergs, a group from Oslo, Norway, that makes its US debut with a fantastic squeal of feedback on This is Not the End; the L.A. quartet Cherry Glazerr, which just dropped its most emotionally potent and fully formed album ever; Girlpool, Le Butcherettes, the beautifully transporting songs of Tiny Ruins and more.

YouTube

New Order, one of the most influential U.K. bands of the 20th century, formed in the long shadow of Joy Division, which disbanded following the 1980 death of singer Ian Curtis.

On this week's program, host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Rodney Carmichael, Sidney Maden and Stephen Thompson to talk about the must-hear albums out on Jan. 25. This includes hard-driving riff rock with a healthy sense of humor from FIDLAR and Mike Krol, the Compton rapper Boogie, woozy synth-pop from The Dandy Warhols, the shape-shifting sounds of New Orleans singer DAWN and more.

Featured Albums:

  1. FIDLAR: Almost Free
    Featured Song: "Can't You See"

Every year around this time, members of the All Songs Considered team — including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton and me — each dredge through nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, in search of great new discoveries. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of acts, hundreds slip past our radar altogether.

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

Welcome to a brand-new season of New Music Friday! After a few quiet weeks, the flood gates are opening and we've got a whole bunch of essential albums dropping on Jan. 18 to tell you about. This includes the smart, sparkling pop of singer Maggie Rogers, swooning love songs from James Blake, deep introspection from Pedro The Lion's first new album in 15 years, pure joy from Toro y Moi and much more. Host Robin Hilton is joined by NPR Music's Stephen Thompson for this quick sprint through the essential releases for Jan. 18, the first busy drop date for the new year.

It appears to be required by law that every indie-rock band of the '90s must reunite at some point. So we might as well see the return of a great one, right?

James Blake is about to release his first album since 2016's The Colour in Anything, but the star singer and producer has kept a high profile in the intervening years. He's popped up all over the place, including in several collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, and released a single called "Don't Miss It" last summer.

Well, kids, it's been another year of holograms, headlines and big human messes here in Orbit City. At least music brought us together again and again in 2018, whether in the crowd to see Mitski, Janelle Monáe or Brandi Carlile, or surrounded by strangers in bed at Max Richter's SLEEP concert. This Year in Review edition of All Songs Considered is built like a little time machine to move us chronologically through 2018.

Pages