Thursday, 17 September 2009

CW - Wincing the Night Away - Cover Analysis

Artist: The Shins

Album: Wincing the Night Away


The genre of the artist as shown by the album cover art as alternative. This is due to its artistic and seemingly unconventional stylings. The lack of artist depicted onto the cover is conventional in indie or alternative bands. The scrawled art over the cover is also not rare in alternative album covers, e.g. The Automatic - Raoul. This gives artistic and care free connotations that appeal to the demographic. These album covers usually have a cryptic meaning to them, and relates to aspects of the songs in the album, or the album title. This album cover is enigmatic, as its meaning is not obvious to the viewer. These designs are often conceptual, and do not display the members of the band, to try to give an anti-narcissistic image. This certainly is present in this album cover. The scrawled image and drawn on math paper connote a childish picture, and through that, innocence, which desexualises the band, which is common in alternative bands, as to show they are more about the music than their image. The image being on math paper also approaches capitolism, causing a challenging ideological discourse on the dominant value that money is the route to success. It conveys this message by putting art onto something that should normally have numbers on it, abandoning the intellectual route to wealth and success, instead opting for expressionism. Many alternative bands try to convey this in their cover art.


'The Shins' are written along the dominant reading line in the top left corner to be in aggreance with rule of thirds. 'Shins' is written the largest as this is the band's name, and so therefore stands out for branding, and catches the eye first. 'Wincing the Night Away' the name of the album is then written under the name of the artist. The 'blobs' are also drawn in concordance with rule of thirds, as these are the most aesthetically interesting places on the text. Texture is used in the text. The image appears to be scribbled on mathematics paper, the gaps in ink at some sections create the feeling of it being scribbled and creates imperfections. The maths paper background has a slight yellow tinge to it to indicate age. The image however is just in black, what is to be presumed pen ink, it is greyer in some areas. The images on the maths paper are blobs composed of what looks like cells, with fagella coming out of them. This can be presumed due to it looking like the process of two 'blobs' breaking apart as in single cell reproduction, mitosis.

This combination of techniques create a meaning to the cover art. The meaning created here is an overview statement on life. Being that all life is, is consuming and reproducing, repeat. This can be shown through the blob in the top right corner apparently about to eat the band name. It has also just split off from another blob, amking two blobs, and growing long flagella used for movement. The yellow tone of the paper shows that this process has been going since the beginning of life as it provides connotations of age. This is enhanced by depicting organisms with a visable cellular structure. The fact that it looks like it is written on maths paper implies this was drawn at school. The significance of this is that we are being told by the band that school teaches you to carry out the process: consume, reproduce, repeat. The way that the ink looks scrawled emphasises that this is a young child drawing this, and so we are taught this early on. The reasoning that the picture is drawn onto math paper may also mean that, through the logical connotations of the math paper, that creativity is also groomed out of children at school.

Intertextual refences shown here are of parody to a Sam Cooke song 'Twistin' the Night Away' as The band's lead singer James Mercer was an insomniac when writing the songs on the album, and so 'Wincing the Night Away' plays on the song title. Pastiche is created through art and maths being combined from the maths paper and scrawled images. These two areas are usually conflicted in use, but are however brought together to produce meaning.


The band are represented artistically to display their intellectual theologies on life. This creates an enigmatic sense around the band, and inspires deep meanings to be read from the text and lyrics. It also displays them as being anti-image, and show that they are more about the music they create than their looks and makes them look like material goods, e.g. money aren't of importance to them. they do this by not showing style of clothes or expensive aspects about them, however wealthy they may be. The album title adds to the meta-narrative as the audience finds out about James Mercer's insomnia they feel they are building a relationship with the band through knowing things about the band's personal life.


The text can be consumed in shop windows and on shelves easily and should catch the eye of the demographic they are appealing to. This text is to be consumed by the audience to learn more about the band through their theologies and personal lives. This is evident through the title of the album being distinctly visible so attention is drawn to it for the audience to decipher. The images printed are also easily visible and are placed according to rule of thirds to become aesthetically, more interesting. Therefore it is apparent that the band or record label wants to make the meaning of the images to be read and consumed to bring the audience closer to the band, creating loyalty.


This cover was also used as advertisement in NME magazine to promote their new album. Not much can be said about the advertisement, that hasn't already been said in my cover art analysis already. However, dominant reading path of the page also corresponds to that of the dominant reading path of the album cover, therefore the band name, and title of the album is read first, and is drawn to the eye.

The advertisement was placed at the bottom left hand of the page. This is a fairly expensive part of the page as the left side is where the eye begins to read from. This is not the most expensive though, as the top half is more expensive as the eye reads from top to bottom also.

The fact that the band or label uses the album to promote themselves means that they are still avoiding being the image themselves, and so produce more of an enigma to the viewer, and depict themsleves as being 'all about the music' and art. The cryptic cover art poses as a puzzle to the viewer, and so the viewer tries to find out more about the album and band, and so may end up buying into the band. Creating a parasocial relationship between the band and the audience. This is inkeepingwith Dyer's paradoxical theories on 'stars'. The band seems both close (due to the solving of the album cover presented to the viewer, forcing a relationship to be built due to the viewer thinking they know something about the personality of the band through finding meaning in the cover art.) And far away simultaneously (because of the obvious literal distance of the band, and the pictures of the band being absent in the cover art. Lack of normal ideals also help to distance the band from the viewers relatability.)

The advertisement was available on thier myspace page also. Here it was on the left hand side, directly below their media streaming interface. This gave a direct link if people like their songs, on how to purchase the album.

The advertisement further promotes the band and album at the same time. It's crypyic message within a seemingly simple graphic is what excites and sustains viewers interest in consuming the text.


  1. Outstanding. Well done. This is thorough, perceptive and meaningful - a tricky album cover to deconstruct, but you've cracked it.

    Level 4+

  2. Sounds like a High School assignment. There's nothing like public school to ruin anyone's appreciation for anything beautiful. Cancel this.