It has triggered a high-profile lawsuit, of course, but even before then, Vampire Weekend’s blonde-in-a-Polo-shirt found-Polaroid-ish image for Contra was, like it or not, the most compelling and iconic album cover of the year, if now also the most expensive. Why, exactly, does a random photograph of a random person/thing now carry the weight among a certain strain of indie-rocker once held by high-end auteurs like 4AD’s Vaughn Oliver? What makes the bizarre cover of Fang Island’s latest so similarly engrossing?
To that end, see this excellent Pitchfork piece by friend-of-SOTC Eric Harvey, tracing the found-photo phenomenon from VW and the Dum Dum Girls and the like back through Belle and Sebastian, Jandek, William Eggleston, and Big Star, with digressions into the chillwave set’s obsession with the beach, Polaroids, Google Street View, Hipstamatic, Facebook, and “synthetic nostalgia.” “If Crystal Castles and Dr. Dog are pulling from any similar aesthetic places, that’s something to investigate,” Harvey writes, and over however many thousand words (!) he gets to play with here, he proves himself right. Long, thoughtful, highly recommended.