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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.

This week's episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour coincides exactly with Netflix's release of GLOW, a 10-episode TV series starring Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron. Presenting a fictionalized history of the late-'80s syndicated TV show GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, GLOW carries the formidable DNA of executive producer Jenji Kohan (Orange Is The New Black, Weeds) and producers Liz Flahive (Nurse Jackie, Homeland) and Carly Mensch (Orange Is The New Black, Weeds, Nurse Jackie).

The Lone Bellow's earnest and magnetic folk-pop was built to shake the rafters: It's hooky and rousing and performed with absolute commitment. It has been since the beginning, from the band's charming, self-titled 2013 debut through the Aaron Dessner-produced Then Came The Morning two years later. And, if a new song called "Time's Always Leaving" is any indication, it'll carry on through the release of The Lone Bellow's third album, Walk Into A Storm.

Rainer Maria's story began in Wisconsin and, at least for a time, ended in New York. In the interim, a span stretching from the mid-'90s to the mid-aughts, the band found and refined the sound it was born to play: a tense, wordy, emotionally wound-up bundle of jagged guitars, literary references and vocals that could harmonize beautifully or crash into each other discordantly. Rainer Maria's songs exuded raw, life-and-death drama befitting the group's youth, and every second felt unabashedly sincere.

Matt Pond PA has been churning out charming power-pop songs for nearly 20 years — a run that will extend to 12 full-length albums when the band releases Still Summer on August 11. Its arrival will mark a major milestone in a long and creatively fruitful career: Once tours for the new record have run their course, singer-songwriter Matt Pond is effectively breaking up the band, dropping the "PA" and carrying forward with new projects.

Musicians cover each other's songs often enough that the results rarely qualify as news. But covering a whole album, song for song? That's a labor of love ambitious enough to warrant attention.

If you've ever attended a gigantic music festival, you've seen them: row upon row of portable toilets collecting untold oceans of human waste. They help create a piquant bouquet that also includes steaming asphalt, deep-fried corn-dog batter, a slurry of mud and torn-up grass, and the sundry odors that can only emanate from a broad cross-section of humanity assembled in one place.

What you probably haven't done — although who's to say, really? — is pondered the collection of 50,000 liters (minimum) of human urine and thought, "What a waste."

There's nothing all that novel about covering a fizzy pop song as if it were a slow, bluesy dirge — any more than it's novel to cover a ballad as if it were a speedball punk jam. Radical transformations aren't radical in and of themselves.

Glen Hansard's career includes a brilliant quarter-century with his rock band The Frames, a fruitful foray into statelier folk-pop with The Swell Season and, most recently, a pair of elegant, deliberately paced solo albums.

Last week brought a flurry of news about a new batch of unreleased Prince songs — six, to be exact, culled from sessions the late star had recorded between 2006 and 2008 — most of which remain unreleased after Prince's estate obtained an injunction blocking their distribution.

Rufus Wainwright has always been keen to tackle the classics — this is, after all, a guy whose most recent album, 2016's Take All My Loves, reinterprets Shakespeare sonnets — and his stylistic palette has remained broad enough to encompass, among many other things, an opera.

Already an industry veteran at 20, Rosie Carney writes songs that feel lived-in and worn, conveying a bruised ache well beyond her years. The Irish singer-songwriter has been letting singles trickle out for a few years now, and her latest, "Your Moon," strikes a sure-footed balance between airy tenderness and coolly jazzy melancholy.

This isn't the easiest time to enter the job market, especially not when so many opportunities are drying up in fields ranging from coal mining to retail.

Prince died one year ago today, and for the first anniversary, fans had been told to expect six new songs, as part of an EP titled Deliverance. The first single, also called "Deliverance," is a soaring, stirring mix of rock and gospel.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "KISS")

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Kendrick Lamar's victory lap continues. The rapper closed the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Sunday night — like most Coachella performers, he'll return at the same time next weekend — with a set that blew through social media thanks to live-streaming and widespread interest in his new material.

When Future Islands singer Samuel T. Herring performs, he mixes vein-bulging intensity with a curious kind of smoothness — the kind that, when it accompanies sweet dance moves, can launch a thousand GIFs in a single hip-sway.

Jack White has made countless contributions to rock 'n' roll: with The White Stripes, with The Raconteurs, with The Dead Weather, as a label owner and musical preservationist, as a solo artist.

Maybe you heard it too: murmurs of a "new Beyoncé song," accompanied by whatever it is that gasping and genuflecting sounds like when transmitted via Twitter and Facebook, then the purr of a song playing through the headphones of the devoted everywhere, begun, as in a round, at slightly different moments.

On July 2, Adele will make the final stop on a 15-month tour to support her 2015 blockbuster 25. The tour certainly hasn't hurt: Far and away the best-selling album of recent years — it was top seller of 2015 and 2016, and no other record came close — 25 also won the Grammy for Album Of The Year back in February.

For more than a decade, the members of The Builders And The Butchers have specialized in a kind of white-knuckle Americana: Their acoustic folk-rock sound is shot through with nervy, hellfire-and-brimstone intensity.

It's been about 10 years since Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan made his U.S. debut with The End Of History, a Mercury Prize-nominated collection of soft-spoken acoustic folk-pop songs in the tradition of Damien Rice and Nick Drake.

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