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For the hopeful and defeated

Oliver Elf Army is an indie punk group that juggles light and dark

At a certain point, I’d be worrying if you didn’t rise to your feet for Oliver Elf Army. Photo credit: Christine Mitchell

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For many people, they engage with music the same way they do with smart phone games, mindless reality shows, and endless cycles of nostalgia: it's all about escapism. And it makes sense, with music having the potential to be one of the most transportive art forms out there. If you want to disconnect from the darkness, chaos and suffering of the world around you, it's not hard to find a song that will almost immediately take your mind to a place where the biggest conflict is whether or not Person A ends up with Person B (perhaps in spite of the nefarious meddling of Persons C or D). There's no shame in embracing escapism, and one may argue that a carefully incorporated dose of worry-free entertainment is vital to your mental health. Being plugged-in 24/7 is a sure-fire road to madness.

Of course, if you're inclined to engage with the world's troubles, there's a whole ocean of music out there that meets just about every one of humanity's problems head on. In times like the one we're living in now, the market suddenly becomes flush with songs and artists that prioritize political activism and defiance. Still, even the most activated music-lovers out there may seek to find some sort of balance, to find music that doesn't discount larger issues, but that also doesn't succumb to the feeling of hopelessness that can be overwhelmingly pervasive. Located in Everett is Oliver Elf Army, a band that skillfully juggles dark subject matter with the kind of heartening, exuberant indie punk that leaves you feeling energized, not burdened with the weight of it all.

Made up of married couple Mary and Martin Adams, with some occasional bass input from Henry J, Oliver Elf Army describes its sound as "sinister pop," which seems about right. With sweetly-sung vocals from Mary and Martin, and a frequently upbeat tone, they explore topics like Nazism, death cults, and the crime-fighting tendencies of Agatha Christie with equal reverence and solemnity -- which is to say, not very much. On their third EP, the three-song EP3, they open with "Nachthexen," a song about the female fighter pilots in World War II. The bouncy melody verges on twee, with Mary's drums and Martin's guitar almost approaching the jangly tone of C86-esque ‘80s college rock. It's easy to lose the lyrics, getting lost in the breezy feel of the tune, until about halfway through the song, when Oliver Elf Army borrows the refrain of the Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks F@*%& Off."

"Black Nikes" is a song that stomps its way through an exploration of the Heaven's Gate cult -- the Nikes being the cult's shoe of choice, and the song's chorus of "c/199501" being the scientific name for the Hale-Bopp comet that the group thought would bring about the spaceship that would take them away. Again, though, this loaded subject is treated with both a boisterous rock drive and a tender reflection, both exploring the aftermath of these cult members' sad deaths, and delving into the gentle optimism they might have had about leaving this earth. Oliver Elf Army is a band that doesn't feel satisfied making blanket statements (except when it comes to Nazis, because, come on), so their "Black Nikes" plays like a song completely divorced from judgment.

When they need to, Oliver Elf Army proves to be a group that can hit anthemic levels of overwhelming emotion, as they do on EP3 closer "Infinity is OK." Placing their bets on a slow build, the final half of the song reaches such highs that you may be suffering from blood-loss if you don't rise to your feet. This is healing music for both the hopeful and the pessimistic.

OLIVER ELF ARMY, all ages, w/ Sleepover Club, Supposably, 8 p.m., Saturday, April 7, $7-$10, Cascadia Brewing Co., 211 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.943.2337

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