Delaware Public Media

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.

With the release of In League With Dragons, The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle is fully 18 albums — not to mention numerous EPs, several side projects, a high-profile podcast series and a pair of novels — into a career spanning more than a quarter-century. With nothing left to prove, he's found more than ever to say, as recent recordings dive headlong into the specificity-rich worlds of underground wrestling (2015's Beat the Champ) and outcast subcultures (2017's Goths).

We've been anxiously waiting for Lizzo to drop her debut full-length album ever since she dominated our South by Southwest showcase in 2017. Cuz I Love You is finally here and it's full of the kind of fearless swagger, unapologetic pride and boundless joy that's won over so many fans. We open this week's New Music Friday with just one of the standout cuts, "Juice."

Josh Ritter hits a couple of round-numbered milestones this year, most notably 20 years (since the release of his debut) and 10 albums (with the arrival of Fever Breaks next week). So it only makes sense that he'd stir up his process a bit, bringing in new collaborators in pursuit of a jolt worthy of these jolt-filled times.

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On April 26, singer-songwriter Kevin Morby releases an ambitious double-length concept album called Oh My God.

Don't see the video above? Click here.

Gary Clark Jr. had good reason to sweat. The blues-rock singer and guitarist opted to play his first-ever Tiny Desk concert — in front of a huge crowd that warmed the room considerably — while clad in a thick knit cap and heavy jacket. Plus, he'd brought his young son on tour with him and had to contend with a traditional parenting dilemma: How do you bring your kid to the office and still get work done?

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A multilingual K-pop juggernaut, BTS mashes up pop, hip-hop, rock and dance music with huge, infectious energy and kinetic choreography.

We open this week's New Music Friday with a quick spin of Love Keeps Kicking from the self-described queer, straight edge, vegan, anarchist punk band Martha. One of the week's best guitar rock albums, it's bursting with hooky melodies and memorable meditations on (among other things) the end of times.

These days, a six-year gap between albums practically qualifies as a hiatus. In the case of Vampire Weekend, it's been enough time to experience a 2014 Grammy win, a significant departure (Rostam Batmanglij left in 2016), a major-label deal, years of touring and a long, deliberately paced lead-up to Father of the Bride, out May 3.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Billie Eilish is already a veteran pop artist at the age of 17, with a clear vision for her sound and image, even if that sound is sinister and the image a bit demented. (Have you seen her videos?) Her brilliant debut full-length, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is finally out and way more cryptic and complicated than the lead-up singles might have suggested.

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