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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: Phoenix, Arizona

Genre: Metal

Why We're Excited: Nate Garrett launched Spirit Adrift as a doom-metal solo project during some major transitions in his life, including sobriety and a cross-country move. Now that he's surrounded himself with a full band, Garrett spends his second album (Curse of Conception) drawing some of his inspiration — not to mention raw, thundering power — from more traditional metal bands like Metallica and Judas Priest.

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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.

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Hometown: London, England

Genre: Rock / Pop

Why We're Excited: Nilüfer Yanya got her start as an R&B singer, but she's more recently morphed into a sparer and more pop-minded sound. Her breakthrough single, "Baby Luv," pairs her smoky voice with a hook that isn't repetitious so much as hypnotically alluring.

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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: Dallas, Texas

Genre: Metal / Stoner Rock

Why We're Excited: Named for a Hawaii 5-0 villain, Wo Fat cuts its thick, doomy metal with bluesy psychedelia and an agreeable Southern-rock chug that makes lines like "We are the riffborn!" ring out like mantras for a life of heavy-metal triumph.

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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."

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Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Vundabar's spiky, caustic, fundamentally good-natured rock and roll bears the weight of grim experience: Singer Brandon Hagen wrote the band's third album, Smell Smoke, while tending to a gravely ill loved one. But songs like "Acetone" — whose sound recalls a less rigidly streamlined Strokes — are too vibrant and highly caffeinated to bum anyone out.

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Katie Von Schleicher runs her self-effacing bummer anthems through a filter of bright-eyed, '70s-style pop-rock. On albums like Bleaksploitation and last year's S***** Hits, Von Schleicher showcases a richly realized artistic persona: Her fuzzed-out songs look inward with a lacerating eye, while still deflecting enough blame to go around.

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Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: "Syml" is the Welsh word for "simple," which should provide a sense of the aesthetic at work in SYML's "Where's My Love." Brian Fennell writes straightforwardly heartwarming, sweetly engaging folk-pop songs, softening each with a voice that embodies comfort and kindness.

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Hometown: Franklin County, Virginia

Genre: Americana

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