Album cover analysis-Foster the People “Torches”



This album cover was created for the Foster the People album “Torches”. The cover was designed by Young and Sick, a music and art project in Los Angeles and New York City with ties to the lead singer of Foster the People, Mark Foster. Foster the People’s drummer Mark Pontius explained that they wanted the characters that feature on the cover to be a motif throughout their music, the album and live shows. This is an example of cohesion and synergy with media products; the audience becomes connected to the characters on the front cover and attribute them to the band, providing a strong identity. Another example of characters that represent an artist/band, would be the virtual creations that represent the artists that play in the band Gorillaz. When we created our music video, we were inspired by the Foster the People song “Call it What you Want”. We were inspired by the video due to the fact that the band have become known for their neo-psychedelic music, videos and artwork. The album cover has a surreal quality that matches the general genre of the band and their music.

Mise en scene

The design and composition of the cover similar to our magazine ad, is very minimalistic. Despite the abstract images, there are only three different colours: orange, yellow and black. The most prominent colour is white, and the cover overall is very basic. The design is based on features of surrealist art such as automatism and found objects. Despite the images being hand drawn and having the impression of people, the characters drawn have exaggerated and enlarged body features. The body shapes are not accurate and the drawings look to have been designed without conscious thought and the attempt to depict reality. In addition, the cover uses image of people/characters and creates caricatures that are detached from the real world; forming a created universe for the band; again similar to the band Gorillaz.  The typography is very minimal, adding to the generally plain design of the cover. The band name is written in black, matching the black lines of the characters, creating the association with the band and the characters. The name of the album “Torches”  is written in a yellow font, matching the torches that characters are holding; providing the temporary idea of the album being a part of the band’s legacy, rather than a permanent feature of the created universe. The characters clothing is mixed, some are wearing clothing such as suits, but some are naked. Stylistically this adds the surreal quality of the front cover, by subverting conventions such as, everyone having to wear clothing due to modesty.


Due to the surreal creation, the meaning of the cover can have a number of interpretations. As previously said, the design became a motif for the band’s products. The album signified real success for Foster the People that were an indie band and relatively unknown before the album release.  The creation of an identity and the composition of the characters gives the band an identity of a close group, as the characters are close together. The torches are perhaps the band trying to claim attention for their songs and what the group want to say. The band that are close together and are attempting to find an audience that will join the universe created by the band, and listen to the songs on the album.

Inter-textual references

The cover clearly references the Gorillaz album cover for “Demon Days”.  As the drummer Mark Pontius said, the characters on the front cover became a feature on their live shows and merchandise. As well as providing synergy with all their products, increasing the band’s identity and also creating a strong and committed audience. On the Gorillaz album cover, the composition is four tiles with the four characters 2D, Russell Hobbs, Murdoc Niccals and Noodle taking centre stage. Similar to the “Torches” cover, the characters are what the audience will identify with, rather than the physical band members.  “Demon Days” similar to “Torches”  received positive reviews and success with 8 million copies sold. With “Torches” receiving similar success, selling 33,000 copies in its first week, the characters on the front cover became an integral part of the band’s identity, with everybody buying the album getting to know the characters.