The Fragile, Overwhelming Power of Glass Animals’ “Agnes”

Agnes - Glass Animals
Nothing compares to losing someone you love, and Glass Animals’ song “Agnes” does an incredible job of capturing those meaningful emotions.

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You’re gone but you’re on my mind
I’m lost but I don’t know why
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There’s nothing quite like the overwhelming sensation of loss. Nothing in this world compares to that level of grief and sadness. The emptiness inside manifests itself in so many ways – a massive weight that won’t lift; a hole in the pit of your stomach that can’t be filled; a searing tension that refuses to release.

Agnes - Glass Animals

Agnes – Glass Animals

There’s always more you could have done; more words you want to say, questions you want to ask, experiences you want to share.

Life is so precious, yet it’s death that really makes it powerful.

Because once death occurs, that life is gone – and you have your memories… you have your thoughts and feelings… but a timeline has ended. An infinite world of possibilities has reached its limit, and is infinite no more. Only then do you realize, there’s no such thing as a happy ending.

It’s just an ending.

Nothing compares to losing someone you love, and Glass Animals’ song “Agnes” does an incredible job of capturing those meaningful emotions. The last track off the English band’s 2016 sophomore album How to Be a Human Being, “Agnes” is at once a heartfelt ballad and a turbulent cry.

Watch: “Agnes” – Glass Animals

While the majority of subject matter for How to Be a Human Being was sourced from stories and encounters from Glass Animals’ time on the road, “Agnes” is different. It’s a semi-autobiographical song for and about a loved one who has committed suicide. The song begins in an unassuming fashion, a vibraphone-like instrument laying a warm melody atop the myriad whirs and purrs of synthesizers. Stepping into it for the first time, one might feel like they’ve reached the eye of a storm: You’re safe, but only for a short while.

Agnes, just stop and think a minute
Why don’t you light that cigarette and
Calm down now, stop and breathe a second
Go back to the very beginning
Can’t you see what was different then?
You were just popping Percocet
Maybe just four a week at best
Maybe a smoke to clear the head

Dave Bayley’s first verse comes in the form of an outstretched hand – an attempt to help save Agnes from himself. Dark clouds have gathered over an estranged being; what was once an escape has become a new prison.

Tension builds in the form of a slow melodic cascade. Synth sounds rise, resembling the frequency shifts we hear when water boils in a kettle. The music gets thicker, heavier as Bayley resolves – knowing he’s not capable of reversing the winds of change.

Your head is so numb, that nervous breath you try to hide
Between the motions, that trembling tender little sigh
And so it goes, a choking rose back
To be reborn, I want to hold you like you’re mine

The chorus melody enters for only a few seconds, gracing us with a brief respite before Glass Animals sink into the second verse – this time, with more warbles and background bobbles.

You see the sad in everything
A genius of love and loneliness and
This time you overdid the liquor
This time you pulled the fucking trigger
These days you’re rolling all the time
So low, so you keep getting high
Where went that cheeky friend of mine?
Where went that billion-dollar smile?
Guess life is long when soaked in sadness
On borrowed time from Mr Madness
And so it goes, a choking rose back
To be reborn, I want to hold you like you’re mine

Agnes is gone, having taken his own life. As the verse progresses, what once seemed like a warm melody feels increasingly poignant: Those bright little tones float above the increasing cacophony below, unchanging, unrelenting. Bayley’s words continue to address his loved one, yet his voice grows increasingly fraught: He throws himself completely into his lyrics, embodying their sadness.

Glass Animals © Pooneh Ghana

Glass Animals © Pooneh Ghana

It’s usually around this time – as Bayley sings, “And so it goes…” that I begin to choke up. The music intensifies, growing into this massive, impregnable sonic force, all of which comes spilling out in the chorus:

You’re gone but you’re on my mind
I’m lost but I don’t know why
You’re gone but you’re on my mind
I’m lost but I don’t know why

This is typically where I break down. “You’re gone but you’re on my mind, I’m lost but I don’t know why…” Bayley croons the same lines over and over again in a beautifully high and full voice, injecting each repetition with fresh pain so as to make it feel like the first time, every time. Electric currents carry crippling emotions on waves of energy: It’s a cathartic outpouring of suffering and despair, a magnificent and bittersweet crescendo of seismic proportions.

And just like that, everything comes rushing back to you: The light in your loved one’s smile; the warmth in your loved one’s embrace. That feeling of completion you felt with them – a feeling of completion you haven’t felt in quite some time.

You’re gone but you’re on my mind, I’m lost but I don’t know why.

Loss breaks us, scatters us to the four winds like the fragile beings, the glass animals we all are. “Agnes” has a way of bringing us back to the moment of impact. Channeling tender emotions through a kaleidoscopic musical array, Glass Animals allow us to relive the stinging sensation of loss. It is an utterly overwhelming experience, but perhaps in it, we can find new meaning or appreciation for our feelings; if anything, we can once more fully embrace our love for those whom death has taken.

You’re gone but you’re on my mind, I’m lost but I don’t know why.

I love you, Mom.

In loving memory of Gail Sorrel-Mosk
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:: purchase/stream Glass Animals here ::
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How to Be a Human Being - Glass Animals

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photo © Neil Krug

“Agnes” & “No Surprises” Symbolize Emotional Pain Through Physical Agony

:: viewfinder ::

A Conversation with Glass Animals: The Musician's Guide to Human Beings

by Mitch Mosk

:: Glass Animals 2017 Tour ::

10/9 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
10/12 – New Orleans, LA @ Mardi Gras World
10/13 – Houston, TX @ Revention Music Center
10/14 – Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits
10/18 – Mexico City, MX @ Plaza Condesa
10/20 – Guadalajara, MX @ Coordenada Festival
10/21 -Monterrey MX @ Live Out Festival
tix & info @ www.glassanimals.eu

Listen to Glass Animals

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York’s many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch’s words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing.
Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com