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.

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Genre: Folk Rock

Why We're Excited: Sometimes, the phrase "singer-songwriter" can't begin to capture how many different things a vocalist can do with a guitar in her hands. Haley Heynderickx's voice can embody nervy intensity, caustic strangeness or cooing beauty, while her songs never seem to take the same journey twice. In just three minutes, "Oom Sha La La" keeps popping down surprising side roads.

SXSW Schedule:

Hometown: Canowindra, Australia

Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Why We're Excited: Simultaneously warm and cool, singer-songwriter Gordi (a.k.a. Sophie Payten) shares some creative DNA with Bon Iver: She's toured with the band, she records for its label, and she helped make a name for herself by releasing a hauntingly cavernous cover of "00000 Million." In "Heaven I Know," she swathes her voice in Imogen Heap-style effects, but her debut album (2017's Reservoir) also showcases a joyful side.

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Genre: Roots Rock

Why We're Excited: Field Report's Christopher Porterfield got his start playing alongside Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all the way back in their DeYarmond Edison days, and now his Field Report project is getting its due after several strong albums. Summertime Songs slickens Porterfield's sound without sacrificing warmth or depth, as evidenced by the hooky, handclappy anthem "Never Look Back."

SXSW Schedule:

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Thunderpussy's chugging, blustery, feel-good stomp would really liven up the playlist at your old classic-rock station — that is, if its music had been made many years ago, by a band that wasn't called "Thunderpussy." As it is, it's an enormously appealing, sweat-flinging throwback that still finds a way to sound fresh.

SXSW Schedule:

Hometown: New York, New York

Genre: Rock

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.

Haley Heynderickx's songs have a way of sneaking up on you: They start out spare, animated by a lone voice or a subtly snaky guitar line, only to billow out into something strange, beautiful, bracingly intense or some combination thereof.

When The Decemberists release I'll Be Your Girl on March 16, it'll be the band's eighth album — part of a 17-year career that's taken listeners through everything from wry folk to ambitious rock opera. If I'll Be Your Girl's first single is any indication, Colin Meloy and his band have used their new record as an opportunity to try new things and hit a few reset buttons along the way.

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 last time bandleader Kim Deal, her sister Kelley Deal, bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim Macpherson got together to make a record, they recorded The Breeders' 1993 classic Last Splash, a wiry and infectious burst of sly invention and shambling joy. On March 2, at long last, that lineup returns with All Nerve, the first full-length Breeders album with any lineup since 2008.

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.

November means different weather to different places, so it's presumptuous to assume that everyone is looking forward to an evening spent bundled up in front of the fireplace with a pile of fleece blankets and a cup of hot cocoa. But if you want to simulate the spirit of a cozy November night, you could do far worse than "Winter," the tenderly rendered new single from Irish singer-songwriter Rosie Carney.

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.

Glen Hansard's seen it all: decades of cult fame with the Irish rock band The Frames, movie appearances in Once and The Commitments, and even an Academy Award for "Falling Slowly," the signature ballad he recorded with his Swell Season partner, Marketa Irglova.

A singer, rapper, poet, author, speaker and all-around mogul, Dessa can be forgiven for waiting three-plus years (and counting) to follow 2014's excellent Parts of Speech.

The audience for Hanson's first Tiny Desk concert could be cleanly sorted into two distinct camps: the curious and the committed.

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.

Tom Petty's recorded legacy spans nearly 50 years — from classic-rock standards to deep cuts that hit hard. His songs are wired into the American cultural psyche, whether they soundtracked a misspent youth, accompanied a few decades' worth of love and loss, or merely popped up in an unforgettable moment from Jerry Maguire. Petty's music has been everywhere, which means it's meant something to just about everyone.

For such an unassuming rock star, Tom Petty sure got to live a lot of lives.

Pages