American Ink doles out a heady amount of pop-punk with a garage rock twist to deliver reminiscences on adolescence and self-identity.

If you’re looking for a heady dose of pop punk with a romantic twist, look no further than Hand-Drawn Hearts, American Ink’s debut EP.

While Hand-Drawn Hearts embodies youthful freedom, idealism, and confronts an “us-against-the-world” sentiment, it also communicates frustrations with boredom and indecisiveness. Through these ideals, the EP commits to harnessing the full extent of one’s individuality, and rejecting those who aren’t on board with it. And, it recognizes that these are struggles are a part of growing up.

If it feels like Hand-Drawn Hearts was written from the perspective of youth on the edge of self-discovery, that’s because it was.

Aidan Crotty (vocals/bass), Michael Romano (guitar/vocals), and Nick Fauza (drums) are 15 and 14 years old, respectively, and since they are on the younger end of the age spectrum, are perhaps best suited to create the edgy yet poppy riffs in Hand Drawn Hearts with self-aware criticisms of teenager-dom.

The first track on the EP, “Sleezer,” starts off with a catchy bass line, and in the midst of punchy, tight guitar licks, Crotty expresses how technology affects his boredom (“Let the TV think for me / A simulation of being a teen”). Crotty’s voice doesn’t have much inflection; and while it’s not completely robotic, it gives off an impression of inactivity, of not being able to think for oneself and simply “going through the motions” of what a teenager is supposed to do.  Shortly after, Crotty provides insight into a mental breakdown, showing the listener the results of laziness, or, in other words, being a “sleeze” (“Caged up here in my kennel / Hearing voices, I’m going mental / Blacking out is no surprise”). The resulting breakdown is a metaphor for the effects of technology and the dangers of becoming too comfortable with society’s expectations of youth, which don’t encourage individuality.

In response to the boredom and inhibitions in “Sleezer,” “Moving to Philly,” which is the more garage-rock track on the EP, evokes anxiousness, tiredness, and the long-felt desire to get out and try somewhere new, where it’s seemingly better. It’s the EP’s “on the road” track as Crotty and Romano sing, “God I swear, someday I’ll up and run away / I’m not callused, but I still can take the abuse / So fire away / I’m moving out to Philly.” There’s a decisive drive in Romano and Crotty’s determined lyricism and hard chord progressions that take inspiration from earlier, more abrasive Green Day.

If “Moving to Philly” is about self-determination, traveling, and taking chances, then “Bad Hymn” is about the opposite: staying in one place. (“Ran out of gas / Crashed, the car’s broke / But we don’t mind / We let it burn slow”). A more melodic jam than the previous, harder tracks on the EP, more questions arise here as the imaginary car is burning, a symbol for a release of tension and inhibitions and the subsequent confusion that accompanies it (“It seems like nothing comes together / A taste that’s sweet beneath the bitter / I still can’t figure it out”). This sense of confusion stems from contradicting elements in an environment, and emblematic of youth and not being able to have all the answers.

American Ink have a lot of spunk for a 3 piece band. They are romantics at heart, dreaming of new places and new lives while searching for underlying meaning to life experience. They remind listeners that it’s okay to not have all the answers, to want a better life, or reject stigmatic expectations that inhibit the potential of one’s full individuality.

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