Walking Sleep: Take appropriate ‘Measures’



If only the world were a pop place.

Hunter Curra looks like a guy who’s spent long hours wrestling with that notion, and no matter how he tries to whitewash it, or what melody it’s set to, the vagaries of day-to-day life are fraught with noxious subtext. “All those sweet and saccharine songs – that’s not what the world is like,” the frontman of the Los Angeles six-piece Walking Sleep says. “I’ve never seen why you can’t have pop songs from a darker or more humanistic viewpoint.”

That’s the dichotomy explored on the band’s debut album “Measures,” self-released this week. With its vintage-sounding arrangements and plaintive boy-girl vocals, it’s subversive indie-pop that skirts its twee trappings and, for the most part, locks optimism in a dark closet with only bread and water. If Belle and Sebastian suggest you might be feeling sinister, Walking Sleep removes all doubt.

The road to this week’s release – the long-awaited follow-up to the 2008 EP “Escapements” – seemed equally imperiled. The band originally was known as the Flying Tourbillon Orchestra before tiring of having to explain it to everybody except horology experts and changing to Walking Sleep. And the band’s male majority (Curra, Adam Schary, Ethan Walter, Aaron Lariviere and Daniel Goldblatt) worked with several female vocalists before finding Sara Radle, a solo artist in her own right and a former member of the Rentals.

For Curra, who moved to L.A. in 2006 and started assembling the band the following year, it’s good synergy. “I never wanted to have a ‘Hunter Curra project’ – I’m no genius. I want to collaborate,” he says. “There something great about making music with your best friends.”

Most of “Measures” did come from Curra’s demos, which were inspired by “listening to a lot of classic pop, and even some bubblegum,” he says. “I loved the melodies and the orchestration but what pissed me off were the stupid lyrics. … So I try to balance all the poppiness with something that actually sounds eerie.”

Mission accomplished, on several fronts. “In a Dream” is more like a nightmare (“In a dream one night / you were choking me”), and in the jaunty, string-infused “Let It Go On,” we’re told “The river runs red.” The band’s cinematic arrangements set up the lyrical surprises, which Curra admits are products of his vivid imagination.

“I don’t see myself as being that interesting a person really. I grew up in the suburbs with middle-class parents,” he says. “But the thing that turns my collar is to see and hear about devastation. … Or maybe it’s just harder to write a love song.”

||| Live: Walking Sleep celebrate the release of “Measures” with a show Saturday night at the Bootleg Theater.

||| The album: Recommended.