Stephen Thompson

Stephen Thompson is an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he curates Song of the Day, fusses over the placement of commas and appears as a frequent panelist on the podcasts All Songs Considered and Pop Culture Happy Hour. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the weekly 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, Weekend All Things Considered and Morning Edition, on which he earned the distinction of becoming the only 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 forthcoming anthology 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 and a Frogger machine. 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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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Tue September 10, 2013

The 1975: Tiny Desk Concert

The 1975 performs a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Hayley Bartels Hayley Bartels/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:11 pm

As lead singer of the youthful Manchester band The 1975, Matthew Healy has cranked out a batch of enjoyably wiry songs, most notably the singles "Chocolate" and "Sex" — each of which has attracted more than a million YouTube plays. The group has been bubbling up, here and in the U.K., for the last year or two, as it's toured with Muse and released an album and four EPs full of brash-but-winsome, electronics-tinged pop-rock.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
7:37 am
Sat August 17, 2013

Mother Falcon: Tiny Desk Concert

Mother Falcon performs a Tiny Desk Concert in July 2013.
Hayley Bartels NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:16 pm

When it comes to Tiny Desk Concerts, we're suckers for milestones at NPR Music: We're gearing up to acknowledge No. 300, for example, and are constantly taking note of the first time a musician trots out a particular rare instrument or does something else no one has done in front of us before.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Alpine: Tiny Desk Concert

Alpine performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Chloe Coleman Chloe Coleman/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:17 pm

Alpine's music doesn't instantly present itself as Tiny Desk material: The Australian sextet crafts busily impeccable pop music with a danceable sway, prominent synths and the charming shared lead vocals of Phoebe Baker and Lou James. That's a lot of ingredients to strip down to a semi-acoustic set in the NPR Music offices; there's virtually no margin for error.

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All Songs Considered
2:17 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 9:12 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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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Dana Falconberry: Tiny Desk Concert

Dana Falconberry performs a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR Music in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2013.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:19 pm

Dana Falconberry's songs are gentle, almost invariably delicate, sometimes mysterious and frequently feather-light. But her music's sweet, intricate softness never stands in for strength: This is a confident songwriter, whether she's ambling through six- and seven-minute epics ("Leelanau," "Dolomite") or chirping sweetly in the bouncy "Crooked River."

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Newport Folk Festival
6:16 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

5 New Faces Of Folk, At The 2013 Newport Folk Festival

Alynda Lee Segarra records as Hurray For The Riff Raff, one of the emerging acts making its debut at the Newport Folk Festival this year.
Courtesy of the artist

The Newport Folk Festival's history is dotted with historic moments involving musical icons — Bob Dylan plugging in jumps immediately to mind. But, while organizers still take care to stack each festival with huge names and star veterans, the margins are smartly and lovingly curated, too. The 2013 Newport Folk Festival is no different, with an impressive slate of boundary-pushers and genre-eschewers. Here are five of the newest and most promising faces, with a downloadable song from each.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
5:00 am
Sat July 20, 2013

Cheyenne Mize: Tiny Desk Concert

Cheyenne Mize performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 16, 2013.
Marie McGrory NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:21 pm

In the years since she first surfaced as a suitably rustic duet partner for Will Oldham — the two Kentuckians released an EP together back in 2010 — Cheyenne Mize has broadened and deepened her sound, injecting it with slinkiness and sparkle. Her new album Among the Grey continues that evolution, bringing out the lushness in songs that can shimmer prettily or punch with the force of a PJ Harvey.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:03 am
Sat July 13, 2013

Frank Turner: Tiny Desk Concert

Frank Turner performs at a Tiny Desk Concert in June.
Hayley Bartels NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:22 pm

Frank Turner writes folk songs that harness the fury of punk and the majesty of Springsteenian rock 'n' roll. But more than anything else, his music is playful: There's conversational wit and bite to Turner's music, even as he's bellowing to the back rows. His songs lose little when you strip away electric instruments and leave the entertainment value to a single skinny, tattooed guy with an acoustic guitar.

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All Songs Considered
6:59 pm
Fri July 5, 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 12:11 pm

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Tiny Desk Concerts
2:03 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Laura Mvula: Tiny Desk Concert

Laura Mvula performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 15, 2013.
Marie McGrory NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 6:24 pm

Listen to Laura Mvula's terrific full-length debut, Sing to the Moon, and you'll hear soulful pop music in Technicolor. The U.K. singer's sonic ambition is boundless: Her intricately layered songs straddle genres, locations and eras in ways that sound entirely original.

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