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.

Holly Macve's voice seems to hover from era to era, coming to rest somewhere between the lonesome twang of Patsy Cline and the moodily modern slur of Lana Del Rey. Macve's songs lope and shimmer at a lazy pace, but they never lack drama, even as she holds herself motionless.

Before a month-and-change ago, Slowdive hadn't released an album in 22 years. So you'd be forgiven for watching the band perform "Sugar For The Pill" and struggling to pin down what era you're in — especially since NPR Music plopped the group in a playfully retro Brooklyn shuffleboard parlor for the occasion.

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.

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."

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "KISS")

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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