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, 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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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Thu September 19, 2013

The Dodos: Showing 'Confidence' In A Video's Surprising Sequel

Chloe Aftel Courtesy of the artist

Lots of bands play bright, winsome folk-pop, but only one has the bold, sure drumming of The Dodos' Logan Kroeber; he infuses the duo's prettily propulsive songs with momentum and force. Four albums into The Dodos' career, the group is still making terrific records like the new Carrier — a tremendous sleeper for those who've been seeking a Blind Pilot-style left-field gem in 2013.

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Monkey See
6:03 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Requested Reboots And 'Duck Dynasty'

NPR

With intrepid host Linda Holmes trapped in the air-conditioned movie theaters of Toronto, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang was forced to reconstitute itself yet again for this week's episode — this time with our old pal Tanya Ballard Brown, who returns via the power of popular demand. You talk, we listen, people.

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All Songs Considered
11:49 am
Thu September 12, 2013

The Good Listener: Forget The Grammys — Which Music Awards Matter?

There were many ways to discover Alt-J in 2012, including this site, but the band's Mercury Prize win sure made it easier.
Courtesy of the artist

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and along with the quilt my kind sister couldn't possibly have made me herself came a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for ideas on music awards that double as useful buyer's guides.

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Monkey See
6:03 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Blue Jasmine' And A Summer Movie Postmortem

NPR

As summer was giving way to fall, preseason football was giving way to actual football, and Linda Holmes' week was giving way to the Toronto International Film Festival, the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang managed to gather just long enough to look back on a divisive summer full of big, loud, robot-on-robot movies. Our own postmortem can't help but skim past other postmortems — was Man of Steel a hit or a flop?

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All Songs Considered
3:04 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

The Good Listener: When Playing Music At Work, Can You Please Everyone?

Can you please keep your Geto Boys down? I'm looking for my stapler.
20th Century Fox

Originally published on Sat September 7, 2013 7:23 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the helpful slips from FedEx reminding us that we have to be at home to receive their package even though most people work during the day, for pete's sake is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for ideas for how to play music in the office without irritating people.

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All Songs Considered
9:42 am
Fri August 30, 2013

The Good Listener: Why Would Anyone Keep Buying CDs?

In the video for Superchunk's "Me & You & Jackie Mittoo," music fans hold up copies of their favorite albums — no MP3s included.
Courtesy of Merge Records

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 7:13 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid our next-door neighbor's copy of Soldier of Fortune is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, multiple requests for help deciding when it's time to bail on an outdated music format.

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All Songs Considered
12:35 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Wear Headphones In Public?

As Melissa McCarthy's etiquette-minded character in Bridesmaids demonstrates, there's nothing wrong with wearing headphones on an airplane.
Suzanne Hanover Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Originally published on Fri August 23, 2013 4:33 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the monthly bale of sunflower seeds we've decided to order from Amazon Prime via subscription is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a request for advice on when and where it's courteous to wear headphones in public.

Brian Bowen writes via Facebook: "When is it OK to wear headphones in public — in transit, at work, during events large or small, standing in line at the post office, etc.?"

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All Songs Considered
12:06 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Program A Dance Party For Kids?

Monkey See
8:20 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'The Bridge' And The Doctor's Many Faces

NPR

For one more week, our host and pal Linda Holmes has been roaming the desolate plains of Los Angeles at the Television Critics Association press tour, with only catered lunches and lavishly appointed meet-and-greets to provide sustenance.

So the rest of the Pop Culture Happy Hour gang must soldier on in her absence, with the aid of a scrappy young newcomer who'd been waiting for her big break in front of a microphone: All Things Considered co-host Audie Cornish. We predict big things for Audie at NPR!

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All Songs Considered
12:17 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Break Into Music Journalism?

The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Sat August 10, 2013 7:12 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the heavily taped packages that can't be opened without the aid of a utility knife and a blowtorch is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: an array of tips for anyone hoping to launch and sustain a career in music journalism.

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Song Premiere: The Avett Brothers, 'Another Is Waiting'

The Avett Brothers will release Magpie and the Dandelion on Oct. 15
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu August 8, 2013 6:46 am

It hasn't even been 11 full months since The Avett Brothers released The Carpenter, the North Carolina band's most recent collection of poignant and infectious, bluegrass-inflected folk-rock.

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All Songs Considered
6:03 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Stars: 'Wishful' Thinking In A Fizzy New Song

Stars will release a new 7" single, "Wishful"/"The Light," on Sept. 10.
Norman Wong

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 7:08 am

The Montreal pop band Stars wears many faces, literally and figuratively: Singers Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell swap lead vocals in songs that range from effervescent pop-rock to grandiose dance music to melancholy, string-enhanced dirges. With so much to choose from in the group's toolbox, a few gems are bound to get left off its records — a wrong Stars will help right with a new single next month.

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All Songs Considered
8:32 am
Thu August 1, 2013

The Good Listener: Are Bands Right To Scold Fans With Cellphones?

The Gaslight Anthem, as seen through a cellphone.
Adam Gasson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 4:59 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the helpful $40-a-pop reminders not to speed on North Capitol Street is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives. This week: a discussion of cellphone recordings at concerts.

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Monkey See
11:06 am
Fri July 26, 2013

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Fan Gatherings And Fall Television

NPR

We recorded this week's episode during the brief interregnum between the end of Glen Weldon's trip to the San Diego Comic Con and the beginning of Linda Holmes' two weeks at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. So it seemed a perfect time to mine the two events for inspiration.

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All Songs Considered
2:13 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

The Good Listener: Learning To Love Country Music

Holly Williams.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat July 27, 2013 7:01 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the jury summons disguised as refund checks is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a search for entry points to country-music fandom.

Emily Carol Schmidt writes via Facebook: "I'm not super into country, but I now live in a place with 50+ country stations, so I'm giving it a second chance. But how? Do you just listen to it for a couple hours? Get recommendations? Go to a concert?"

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All Songs Considered
1:47 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

The Good Listener: Does Ignoring A Friend's Mix Make You A Bad Person?

Not every mix gets the loving attention we feel it deserves.
Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon July 22, 2013 5:25 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the aluminum-siding pamphlets disguised as jury summons is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a blistering rebuttal of last week's column.

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All Songs Considered
12:43 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

The Good Listener: When You Make Someone A Mix, What Do They Owe You?

Chloe Coleman NPR

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 8:22 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the shampoo samples we accidentally tossed into the fireplace is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, the etiquette surrounding the giving and receiving of mix CDs.

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All Songs Considered
8:28 am
Fri July 5, 2013

The Good Listener: Does A Confession Of Love Require A Soundtrack?

Say what you will about Jon Cusack in Say Anything..., but the man knew how to incorporate music into his romantic gesture.
Twentieth Century Fox

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:18 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the package of Omaha Steaks that sat on our front porch for the duration of a three-week vacation is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how to incorporate music into romantic gestures.

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All Songs Considered
11:53 am
Thu June 27, 2013

The Good Listener: When Is It OK To Hold Seats At A Festival?

These Newport Folk Festival fans knew well enough to position themselves a ways back from the stage.
Mito Habe-Evans NPR

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 6:41 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the flyers from reputable debt-consolidation companies is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, a vexing piece of concert-going etiquette.

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All Songs Considered
9:03 am
Thu June 20, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Pick The Songs For Your Wedding?

Don't let a slow, introspective song crash your wedding reception.
Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 10:11 am

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All Songs Considered
11:30 am
Thu June 13, 2013

The Good Listener: For Music-Festival Rookies, A Survival Guide

If you're going to Bonnaroo this weekend, as these folks did back in 2010, you could use a few tips.
NPR

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 3:26 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the American Girl catalogs we never ordered is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how first-time music-festival attendees can survive and thrive in an overwhelming setting.

Kendall Levinson writes: "Any advice for a young person going to his or her first music festival this summer? Any tips for preparation or survival would be appreciated."

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All Songs Considered
12:03 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

The Good Listener: How Do You Describe The Music You Love?

So you like Dawes. How do you explain the band's appeal to your friends?
Noah Abrams Courtesy of the artist

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All Songs Considered
10:54 am
Thu May 30, 2013

The Good Listener: What's More Important, Lyrics Or Music?

Which is more important: The word "Hallelujah" or music that says "Hallelujah" on its own?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu June 6, 2013 12:05 pm

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All Songs Considered
10:28 am
Thu May 23, 2013

We Get Mail: What's A Modern Music Snob To Do?

Even music snobs can find some common ground.
Diesel Sweeties

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 10:32 am

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the booklets of money-saving coupons we use to light kindling in the fireplace is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, tips for obsessive music fans in an age of instant online gratification.

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All Songs Considered
10:28 am
Thu May 16, 2013

We Get Mail: Can You Build The Perfect Cover Song?

It is some sort of crime against humanity that The New Pornographers' members have never gathered to record a cover of Enrique Iglesias' "Escape."
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:02 pm

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All Songs Considered
10:30 am
Thu May 9, 2013

We Get Mail: How Can A Vinyl Lover Start Over From Scratch?

For fans of vinyl records who regret discarding their collections, it's not too hard to start over.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:03 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the ironic promotional cassingles is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, how a regretful fan of vinyl records can re-create her discarded collection.

Kirsten Elbourne Mathieson writes: "I'm big-time regretting getting rid of all of my record albums years ago. Any advice for someone starting from scratch with vinyl after all these years? What albums must be heard on vinyl rather than CD/digital?"

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All Songs Considered
12:09 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

We Get Mail: What To Do When You've Burned Out On Your Favorite Music

Listen enough, and you can even grow tired of Jeff Buckley's music. Once burnout sets in, how do you rekindle a musical love?
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:04 pm

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All Songs Considered
10:17 am
Thu April 25, 2013

We Get Mail: Should Parents Try To Get Their Kids Into Great Music?

How much should parents feel responsible for making sure their kids hear Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:05 pm

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the solicitations disguised as tax refunds is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, what role parents can and should play in teaching their kids about classic albums.

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Music
7:52 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Jittery Jams: 10 Songs For Coffee Lovers

Frank Sinatra's "The Coffee Song" makes light of a perceived Brazilian coffee glut.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 12:46 am

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All Songs Considered
10:37 am
Thu April 18, 2013

We Get Mail: Do CD Hoarders Need An Intervention?

So you've got a ton of CDs. What's the problem?
Lars Gotrich NPR

Originally published on Tue May 28, 2013 12:05 pm

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