With the second annual AP Music Awards taking place July 22 (get your tickets now), at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, we thought we would use the weeks leading up to this epic event to give you a category-by-category breakdown of the nominees, so you can be an informed voter. Read on to learn about the Best Underground Band nominees, and cast your vote at altpress.com/apmas!

The Hotelier

The Hotelier’s Home, Like Noplace Is There was simply one of the best albums of 2014. Pairing frayed-edge melodicism with tales of friends’ suicides, failed ambition and growing pains is no easy feat, but the LP plays like a coming-of-age novel without the pat connotations. Fresh off a name change and a new turn toward confessionalism, these emo gut-punchers had their first European tour and booked festival gigs from Gainesville to Barcelona, “calling in sick from your funeral” from half a world away.


Tigers Jaw

Reborn as a two-piece, the moody emo/lo-fi haunters produced their best full-length to date, Charmer, and went on headlining tours with Make Do And Make Mend, La Dispute and Balance and Composure. They wear a sheen of tough stoicism on tracks like “Hum,” and they emerged from their private turmoil with even stronger musical muscles. Dynamic and assured, Tigers Jaw are a singular voice in today’s emo scene.


Being As An Ocean

How We Both Wondrously Perish propelled Being As An Ocean to a whole new level of notoriety. A dash of restraint only coiled the band’s brand of bubbling aggression tighter, and Joel Quartuccio’s stirring, impactful screams play like the most brutal spoken-word show I want to go to. Listeners took notice, and BAAO scored legions of new fans more than happy to gobble up their self-titled offering this year. Hardcore is here to stay, y’all. Being As An Ocean helped make it happen.


Major League

A more mature sound, confessional lyrics, religious imagery, and a new vocalist in guitarist Brian Joyce? Major League made some changes in 2014, and they’ve proved they were for the better on There’s Nothing Wrong With Me, their second full-length. Their emo dabblings have always set them apart from the pop-punk pack, pairing introspective tales with instrumentation that could score a gutting coming-of-age flick.


State Champs

Last year’s The Acoustic Things showed a new dimension to the band’s music, proving they could make their more intimat moments shine as vibrantly as their plugged-in offerings. Pair that artistic growth with headlining the Pure Noise Records tour, transitioning from small stages to the main stage on Warped Tour, and an explosion in popularity, and 2014 was an undeniable leap forward for the pop punkers.


Knuckle Puck

Knuckle Puck pair blunt force soul baring with a creative edge that transcends the pithy title of buzz band—check out their tragic, metaphoric video for “No Good” for proof of their fresh take on pop-punk tropes. Last year, the group signed to Rise Records and released a tightly wound, scratched-knuckle raw EP on Bad Timing. Vulnerable? Sure, but that doesn’t mean they can’t claw out your heart in the process.

Feel educated yet? Good—now go cast your vote at altpress.com/apmas! Tickets for the award show are on sale now.