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  • Nathan Weakley

Soundtracks for Self-Endangerment

There are all kinds of things that you shouldn’t be doing. I would never encourage any of my friends to put themselves into a situation likely to cause personal harm. That would be deeply immoral. But, at the end of the day, if you choose to do something irresponsible, I doubt I’ll be able to dissuade you. You shouldn’t do any of the things we’re about to discuss, and you certainly shouldn't do any of them while listening to the wrong music. Here are some songs to listen to in various positions of mild personal danger.

walking alone at night

Elliott Smith - 2:45 A.M.

A late night/early morning walk is probably not a great idea, but the allure is too great to ignore sometimes. Maybe you’re just on your way home from a party or a late shift at work. Or, alternatively, you’re sitting in your room feeling lonely and you get an idea that a walk outdoors would provide a more fulfilling sense of isolation. It’s a vibe. And Elliott Smith’s songs are exactly the right thing– a beautiful, serene loneliness. This one from Either/Or is my favorite at the moment, but almost any of them will work.

standing too close to the edge on the roof of a tall building

Blur - Sing / Animal Collective - My Girls

Headrush in slow-motion. Everything’s too far away for you to get a sense of it, but contained within each tiny indistinct piece is a thousand lives, a thousand emotions and directions. These songs always overwhelm me a little bit, but I love them so much. And looking down at the city as you lean precariously over a ledge on a windy day is a quintessential Chicago pastime. When you get high enough up, all the buildings and interwoven highways look like toy sets, and you’ll be able to make out one or two of the little ants down on the street carrying a coffee or a purse and it’ll make you lightheaded to think every one of them carries a personal, irreducible and mysterious spirit-thing that you’ll never even begin to understand, to say nothing for their lives and futures and years of individual memories. Try not to think about falling.

hopping a subway turnstile

The Strokes - Hard to Explain

Maybe you don’t have any money. Maybe you accidentally went out without your card, or your second-hand clothes are riddled with little holes and it slipped out somewhere. In any case, you’ve got somewhere to be and the CTA worker is outside having a smoke. It’s just too easy. The Strokes’ debut single is wonderful and alive, and it’s the perfect thing to endow even the lowliest, cheapest movements with an aura of class. You’d best wait until the train’s moving before you put your headphones on. 


Alex Walton - In Loving Perpetuity

This one’s a little tough to explain. All of Alex Walton’s music feels like a party that nobody is invited to. It’s like a personal riot taking place somewhere deep underground, unnoticed by anybody else. It's always funny when you go to check out an empty building and you end up disappointed, because for god’s sake there’s nothing in there. But on some spiritual level, that’s what this song feels like. I don’t exactly know why. It’s heavenly and serene and a little ugly. 


The Replacements - Taking a Ride

This one pretty well speaks for itself. Put this song on and roll down the windows even though it's cold and watch the telephone poles whip past you as the road ahead stretches out into an eminent blue horizon, and relinquish control of the moment so that your steady hands may guide you into a brief state of peace wherein nothing can be distinguished save for the eternal and visceral feeling of movement as though in the abstract. And then slow down, because you're committing a crime.

Always, always think before you act. It's never a good idea to do anything that could put you or somebody else in danger. And it's an even worse idea to do anything like that to sub-par music. Stay safe, everybody.


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