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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.

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On paper, Damien Jurado seems like just another sad guy with a guitar, but his discography is incredibly varied: Sure, he's cut his share of sad-guy acoustic ballads, but he's also wandered down an exciting assortment of detours, and his sound has only grown more expansive and searching with time. Jurado is in the midst of an ambitious string of albums — all produced by Richard Swift — on which he explores his more psychedelic, high-concept side: 2012's Maraqopa , 2014's Brothers...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the checks for people who aren't us is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on music's odd and ever-changing relationship with Canada. Gregory writes via email: "I have a question about Canadian recording artists who achieve breakout success in the U.S. When I listen to indie artists in Canada on sites like CBC Music , what I love is the references to the Canadiana — for example,...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the assortment of coloring books for grownups is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts for an engaged couple who can't decide on their first wedding dance. Peter writes via email: "My fiancé e and I listen to music differently. I listen to beats and rhythms, while she listens to lyrics. Because of this, we don't have "a...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside a new Wii U game that cost more than our gas bill is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts for parents who seek the mental energy to love music the way they used to. Musically Mangled Mommy Brain writes via email: "When I was a teenager, I would buy albums and listen over and over again (these were the pre-MP3 days), learning all the words and following concert tours. Now, after...

Last week, when Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon and I gathered to talk about the great summer entertainment we'd neglected to discuss on the show, we came to a realization mid-taping: All three of us had been watching, and loving , the USA Network series Mr. Robot , which aired the last episode of its first season Wednesday night. (It's already been renewed for a second season.) So we decided to punt our talk of Mr. Robot to this week, when Chris Klimek could join us in...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the T-shirt we bought to express our love of goats is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on side projects. Ann in County Cork writes via Facebook: "I am a super-fan of The National and have seen the band six times in three different countries. When EL VY (Matt Berninger's new band) was announced, my first reaction was something close to a disappointed meltdown, because a side...

In the first two episodes of The Giant Foam Finger — a new, sports-themed offshoot of Pop Culture Happy Hour — NPR Code Switch blogger Gene Demby and I have discussed one play in a decade-old NFL game , and we've tackled the phenomenon of fan hatred . This week, we take on a topic that, depending on your perspective, might well encompass both: Brett Favre, the erstwhile NFL quarterback who serves as a sturdy metaphor for, well, a lot of things. Favre, who was recently inducted into the Green...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the mammoth box someone used to ship us a single bottle of beer is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on tall folks at concerts. Stephanie B. writes via Facebook: I was recently at a show of the unseated variety when, to my dismay, a very tall and wide chap with a head boasting the approximate dimensions of a cereal box stationed himself directly in front of me. I spent the...

David Wax and Suz Slezak, the married couple who form David Wax Museum , have put an extraordinary amount of research and work into their sound. They've spent years studying folk music in Mexico, digging back to its roots there to find inspiration, and have traveled the world as official " cultural ambassadors ." But here's a promise: The four minutes you spend here listening to "Guesthouse" will be four of the least fussy, least boring, least academic minutes of your day. The first...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUAOwceIzRM Partnerships between well-known musicians often result in unequal collaborations: One voice, usually the singer's, winds up dominating. So it's refreshing to hear "Return To The Moon," the first released song by a project called EL VY. Pronouncing its name "El Vie" (not "El Vee"), the duo features The National singer Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf, who's played many roles in the Portland bands Menomena and Ramona Falls. And, while Berninger's voice...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the brick-sized bale of bills that arrived during our recent vacation is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on how to play DJ from the passenger seat of a friend's car. Lee C. writes via email: "I don't have a car, so I spend a lot of time in the passenger seat of other people's cars. Usually, the fare for such a ride is being handed someone's phone and asked to pick music. I...

A couple weeks ago, Code Switch blogger Gene Demby and I sat down to reflect on a decade-old sports moment — a single play in a single game — and describe how it affected us as rival fans of the teams involved. In this second episode of the series we're calling The Giant Foam Finger , the two of us tackle a far unwieldier subject: hatred. Gene and I both hate the Dallas Cowboys. I hate the Chicago Bears and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Widespread hatred of basketball superstar...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the shipment of cat sedatives that have us pondering just how often we order shipments of cat sedatives is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on sedating children (not cats) via music. Sara M. writes via email: "I'm in search of a good set of lullabies that 1) aren't cloying and annoying; and 2) aren't lullaby-themed covers of pop songs. My standby is Dave Matthews ' 'Baby,'...

We talk a lot about nostalgia on Pop Culture Happy Hour — about the ways entertainment has shaped our youth and placed our memories in perspective — but in doing so, we've mostly discussed movies, TV shows, music, books, board games, that sort of thing. In almost exactly five years of doing the show, we've never really looked back on our sports memories, or even talked about sports much at all beyond the occasional Super Bowl recap or Final Four preview . We've wanted to do more...

Just a little less than five years ago, Linda Holmes and I decided to book a studio after-hours and record what we'd call " an audio experiment " — a roundtable discussion of pop culture with the two of us and our pals Trey Graham and Glen Weldon, produced by the essential Mike Katzif. By the time the first recording was complete, we'd decided to come back every week, even though our budget was zero and we'd never asked our bosses for permission. What's followed has been a blur of fun live...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the mail-order grapefruits that have us pondering the nature of the mail-order-grapefruit business is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on pop music's staying power. Steven F. writes via Facebook: "Which current music stars will be remembered 20 or 50 years from now, which will be forgotten, and why?" There are so many quick-twitch responses to this question —...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHCO6CRTLT8 Dan Auerbach spreads himself thin: The singer-guitarist's career has found room for a solo record, prolific production work with the likes of Dr. John , the side project Blakroc and, of course, eight albums as half of The Black Keys . His latest excursion is a band called The Arcs — whose spotlight he shares with Richard Swift , Leon Michels, Homer Steinweiss, Nick Movshon, Kenny Vaughan and the women of Mariachi Flor De Toloache — which is about to...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the weekly magazine that seems to show up at least four times per week is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This time around: thoughts on the playlists at amusement parks. Donna B. writes via email: "Why is it that the music I heard when I went to Six Flags Over Georgia as an adolescent — REO Speedwagon, Journey, Supertramp, et al, all of which was contemporary Top 40 then — is the exact same music I...

This week's taping presented us with a few conundrums: Host Linda Holmes had already begun her vacation, while I know jack-all about the seven accumulated seasons of Mad Men , whose finale we were duty-bound to discuss. Our solution involved a pair of our most beloved guest panelists — Gene Demby and, from a studio in L.A., Barrie Hardymon — and a brief interregnum in poor Linda's vacation. (I stayed home and ate snacks.) Linda, Barrie, Glen Weldon and Gene all had much to say about ...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the package shipped Next Day Air but addressed to the guy who moved out of our house eight years ago is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: deep thoughts on beach balls at concerts. Margaret H.W. writes via email: "Why do music festivals seem to hand out beach balls to drunk, high 19-year-olds? If I would like to listen to music WITHOUT beach balls, what are my anti-beach-ball options? CAN I...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside a backup pallet of kennel-grade cat sedatives is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: thoughts on when music might stand between life and death. Ann L. writes via email: "Can a song really save your life?" To answer your question in the most general terms, I'd suggest coming back to this page after it's been published for a few days. Scroll down to the comments — it's not often...

Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel aren't the first married couple to write songs about the challenges and celebrations inherent to lifelong love, but few focus more intently on a sense of play. Still, there's nothing naive or unrealistic about their songs: When they sing, "Love loud / Don't lose loud" in 2008's "The Re-Arranger," they're taking care to package a sweet little two-word slogan with a subtle but potent reminder that loving loudly is a job of endless maintenance. "Staring Contest"...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside flyers that assume we have the means to acquire luxury items is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: thoughts on the intensity of online backlash. Andy S. writes via email: "Why do certain bands get singled out for seemingly out-of-proportion online hate? (See: Nickelback.)" Looking beyond bands for a moment, it's hard to pin down the exact cocktail of emotions that harden to...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside bales of deep-discounted Easter candy is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on buskers, tipping and etiquette. Holly R. writes via email: "How much of a tip is good for the street-side musician with a cup at his feet? What about for one playing in a bar?" You've seen the signs that read, "Tipping is customary for good service," right? The same is true for good...

Last Friday, Netflix dropped its latest 13-episode bundle of original programming: the grim and occasionally grisly superhero drama Daredevil , based on the Marvel Comics mainstay of the same name. Starring Charlie Cox and a large supporting cast, the show takes place in a bleak New York City neighborhood that's ruled by a murderous crime syndicate and defended by blind lawyer Matt Murdock, whose other heightened senses make him an oft-overmatched but extremely resourceful crime...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside an assortment of expensive cat sedatives is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on whether all the great song ideas have been used up. Gwen writes via email: "With so many songs already written around the world, and throughout time, how the hell can anyone write a NEW song? Yet I hear a new song and I love it and it sounds new — but...

For Heartless Bastards , rock 'n' roll entails a lot of heavy lifting, most often in the form of hundreds of club shows each year. It's a work ethic reflected on the Ohio-born, Austin-based band's albums, as singer/guitarist/powder-keg Erika Wennerstrom sets her rugged wail against the efforts of musicians churning out muscular blues-rock. Typically, this isn't a band prone to periods of extended relaxation, which makes the four-year gap leading up to Heartless Bastards' forthcoming fifth...

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside laminates containing SXSW's most coveted VIP party passes, all of which are set to arrive the day after we leave for Austin, is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on SXSW envy. Kerry writes via email: "Every year, I tell myself, 'This is the year I finally take time off and go to Austin for SXSW.' Every year, I put it off too long and finally talk myself out of it. And then, for...

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