Two weeks ago, Pitchfork tweeted a link to Ian Cohen’s review of Sun Kil Moon’s new album, Universal Themes. At the last moment, though, Pitchfork pulled the review in response to remarks Mark Kozelek made onstage about one of its writers, Laura Snapes. When a new review was posted, this time penned by Mark Richardson, they awarded the album a 6.0, the lowest score possible before entering outright pan territory. (And by the way, this matters because Pitchfork was in all likeliness about to post a glowing review in the same light as they did for Kozelek’s 2014 LP Benji, also reviewed by Cohen.)
I won’t go into the controversy surrounding Kozelek—Stereogum has already weighed in on it, and Snapes herself responded, too—but I will make a remark about Pitchfork’s reaction. That this is a personal retaliation against Kozelek is pretty undeniable, and regardless of whether Kozelek deserves it or not, it’s pretty unprofessional. It’s not like they were suddenly appalled by the album’s content; they wanted to do damage in the best way they could. Level-headed people would, at first glance, brush this off, but Pitchfork’s influence is massive, and something like this isn’t likely to have positive results for the artist in question. It effectively ended the career of Travis Morrison (never heard of him? that’s why), and hasn’t helped Jet or the Airborne Toxic Event.
All this just supports my hunch that Pitchfork’s grades are a bunch of bullshit. I mean, of course I can’t prove it, but I have a terrible suspicion that they meticulously pick and choose which artists they want to promote according to some sort of coolness measurement (mostly having to do, I would guess, with how little the artist in question cares about you or what you think), tag it with ‘Best New Music,’ then give them massive exposure for a year or so. (Or, like in Kozelek’s case, you open your big, stupid mouth and bite the hand that fed you, and so that promotion ends.) It would help explain the insularity of their recommendations, and it would further convince me that they’re nothing but an industry of cool, their entire persona as music aficionados a front for straight hipness. Pitchfork has no political bent, no goddamn personality, no take on the world outside of indie. What a featureless and fatuous publication.
And for the record, I’m not defending Kozelek. He’s a piece of shit and so’s his music.