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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12:32pm

Thu December 6, 2012
Tiny Desk Concerts

Anaïs Mitchell: Tiny Desk Concert

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:49 pm

Anais Mitchell performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 23, 2012.
Lauren Rock NPR

Her voice is soft and sweet, her guitar work deft and evocative, but Anaïs Mitchell is a songwriting storyteller first and foremost. Robbed of a gift for melody and poetry, Mitchell would probably (and may yet) write some tremendous novels.

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12:27pm

Mon November 26, 2012
Tiny Desk Concerts

Martha Wainwright: Tiny Desk Concert

Originally published on Tue November 27, 2012 2:37 pm

Martha Wainwright performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Oct. 15, 2012.
Ryan Smith Ryan Smith/NPR

Martha Wainwright's songs examine uncomfortable moments and life experiences gone wrong, but as she acknowledges in between songs at this Tiny Desk Concert, she often has to fudge her own life story to make the details more unsettling. ("Take everything with a grain of salt," she says, "except the good stuff.") What she does is the opposite of sugarcoating: She roughs up life's smooth spots, then digs her fingertips into the cracks that form.

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1:17pm

Mon November 19, 2012
Tiny Desk Concerts

Ben Gibbard: Tiny Desk Concert

Benjamin Gibbard performs a Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR Music offices on Nov. 8, 2012.
Lauren Rock NPR

Ben Gibbard has spent so much time at the head of various bands — Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, All-Time Quarterback — that it's easy to forget how well his sweetly brainy songs work in a solo acoustic setting. His melodies are sturdy enough to withstand skeletal arrangements, and though his persona is unassuming by nature, he remains a charismatic and charming live performer.

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12:03pm

Mon October 29, 2012
Tiny Desk Concerts

Passion Pit: Tiny Desk Concert

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 10:21 am

Passion Pit performs on Tiny Desk on Oct. 15.
Ryan Smith Ryan Smith/NPR

Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos is a fussy sonic craftsman: A keyboardist and singer who started out working solo on his laptop, he now makes fizzily catchy electro-pop that orbits around monster hooks. He's not, in other words, the first musician you'd associate with a stripped-down performance behind NPR Music's Tiny Desk, where Technicolor production tends to give way to unfiltered voices and bare instrumental essentials.

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2:35pm

Mon October 22, 2012
Tiny Desk Concerts

Robert Cray Band: Tiny Desk Concert

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 8:00 am

Robert Cray performs a Tiny Desk Concert
Lauren Rock NPR

Bringing blues music to the Top 40 isn't easy: Only a handful of musicians have done it in the 30 years Robert Cray has spent winning awards, selling millions of records and otherwise kicking around on the national stage. But Cray has, crossing over from blues-club stages to arenas with the double-platinum 1986 album Strong Persuader and its single "Smoking Gun," and has continued to stick around as one of the most reliably gifted and accessible guitarists around.

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