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.

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.

Recorded under the name Novo Amor, Ali Lacey's music weaves together many exquisite strands, from gently picked acoustic guitars to subtle but moving strings. Still, no facet of Lacey's sound is more delicate than his soft, airy, fragile falsetto.

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:

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

When PWR BTTM takes the stage, it doesn't take long to figure out what you're going to get. From the first glitter-smeared seconds of the set-opening "Silly," the band came to shred and swagger with infectious joy, complete with backbends and solos and spangly outfits — at least one of which wouldn't survive the band's set at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, recorded live for NPR Music Wednesday night.

If you've only heard Lizzo's hit "Good As Hell" — and if you haven't, listen now, I'll wait — you might think the Twin Cities singer is a funny and ingratiating but fairly straightforward purveyor of self-affirmation and charismatic confidence. But as her joyful and explosive live show unfolded, complete with the arrival of the ecstatic backup dancers she calls "The Big Girls," it became clear that Lizzo has something more powerful going on.

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

The combination of an acoustic guitar and the human voice can trigger powerful emotions in countless ways, but it's pretty remarkable when they come together in ways that sound novel. "Goji Berry Sunset" — the first single by Naomi Hamilton, a singer from Northern Ireland who goes by the name Jealous Of The Birds — is made from some of the sparest ingredients imaginable; it's just a gently plucked acoustic guitar, a whistled hook and Hamilton's layered vocals. But those simple sounds dig deep.

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

Two years ago, when Scottish singer-songwriter Charlotte Brimner was just 17, her work with music and technology helped send her to SXSW — but not as a performer. Instead, she was part of a panel discussion at SXSW Interactive titled "Making Music Physical Again," in which she described the way tech informs her work as an emerging singer-songwriter.

Madison, Wisc., singer and rapper Trapo was in third grade when he started scrawling rhymes in notebooks. Now less than a year removed from high school, he's ready for — and deserving of — a massive audience. For one thing, he's already developed a distinct songwriting voice to go with a sonic palette that's instantly, identifiably his. Trapo performs with a beguiling mix of rawness and ache, often lending a growl to his delivery that can sound tender, or desperate, or angry.

Austrian-born U.K. percussionist Manu Delago specializes in the Hang, a cousin of the steel drum that produces soft, muted, subtly shimmering tones. The instrument provides a perfect counterpoint to the gentle production effects of Delago's new third album, Metromonk, on which a sense of haunted, worldly mystery never gets in the way of approachability and warmth.

The Austin 100

Mar 1, 2017

Every year, the SXSW Music Festival serves a daunting, days-long feast of sounds from around the world. And once again, NPR Music's Austin 100 is here to distill it all down to a digestible meal of music discovery.

Picked from a playlist that spanned more than a hundred hours, these 100 songs represent a broad and exciting cross-section of SXSW's many highlights. Here's how you can listen:

For nearly 20 years, Little Big Town's members have plugged away through label troubles, divorces and the death of loved ones, but they've never endured a lineup change.

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

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