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.

When Amber Coffman left Dirty Projectors, the split was acrimonious enough to inspire the band's first song since 2012.

Julia Jacklin doesn't need much accompaniment: If you were to hear the Australian singer-songwriter's unadorned voice, say, echoing at the top of a stairwell, you'd most likely climb to where it leads without a second thought. Jacklin's full-length debut, last year's Don't Let The Kids Win, knows just when and how to lean in to this simplicity, surrounding her with spare instrumentation that keeps that voice in the center of the frame.

Listen to John Darnielle's early solo Mountain Goats albums — those raw-nerved, stripped-bare, white-knuckle, guy-and-guitar recordings he committed to warped cassette tapes all those years ago — it's hard to imagine all the creative side roads he'd one day follow.

Lord knows, much has happened in the years since Land Of Talk released its most recent album, 2010's Cloak And Cipher. But for bandleader Elizabeth Powell, that time has represented an accumulation of hardships and obstacles — her father's stroke, a hard-drive crash that wiped out a bunch of her music, the usual industry woes and lineup changes — that have both slowed her down and sparked her drive for renewal.

If you've ever attended a gigantic music festival, you've seen them: row upon row of portable toilets collecting untold oceans of human waste. They help create a piquant bouquet that also includes steaming asphalt, deep-fried corn-dog batter, a slurry of mud and torn-up grass, and the sundry odors that can only emanate from a broad cross-section of humanity assembled in one place.

What you probably haven't done — although who's to say, really? — is pondered the collection of 50,000 liters (minimum) of human urine and thought, "What a waste."

There's nothing all that novel about covering a fizzy pop song as if it were a slow, bluesy dirge — any more than it's novel to cover a ballad as if it were a speedball punk jam. Radical transformations aren't radical in and of themselves.

Glen Hansard's career includes a brilliant quarter-century with his rock band The Frames, a fruitful foray into statelier folk-pop with The Swell Season and, most recently, a pair of elegant, deliberately paced solo albums.

Put them together, and singer Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist Gil Landau mount a charm offensive powerful enough to knock down some pretty sturdy defenses. Performing as Lola Marsh, the Israeli musicians distill their sound down to a small set of spare, ingratiating ingredients. In the case of "Wishing Girl," those building blocks are simple but potent: a whistled hook, Landau's briskly strummed ukulele and Cohen's voice, which dispenses sweetly plainspoken lines like, "You are my lonely star / And I'm, I'm your wishing girl."

Last week brought a flurry of news about a new batch of unreleased Prince songs — six, to be exact, culled from sessions the late star had recorded between 2006 and 2008 — most of which remain unreleased after Prince's estate obtained an injunction blocking their distribution.

Rufus Wainwright has always been keen to tackle the classics — this is, after all, a guy whose most recent album, 2016's Take All My Loves, reinterprets Shakespeare sonnets — and his stylistic palette has remained broad enough to encompass, among many other things, an opera.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

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.

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

Kendrick Lamar's victory lap continues. The rapper closed the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Sunday night — like most Coachella performers, he'll return at the same time next weekend — with a set that blew through social media thanks to live-streaming and widespread interest in his new material.

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.

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