“Solar Opposites” is Definitely Not Diet “Rick and Morty” (No, This Headline Isn’t Sarcastic)

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By: Nick Manduley

WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR SOLAR OPPOSITES AND MAYBE RICK AND MORTY LAY AHEAD.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve seen the social media ads for Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland’s new animated series, Solar Opposites; and if you have indeed seen these ads, the first thing you probably noticed is that the animation is exactly similar to Rick and Morty. Not that this is uncommon for animated series who share the same creator- just look at every animated show Seth MacFarlane has done, or Regular Show creator J.G. Quintel’s long-awaited upcoming HBO Max series, Close Enough.

The premise of Solar Opposites is rather simplistic; a family of aliens from an advanced society search for a new planet after an asteroid destroys their homeworld, but they (unfortunately) land on the already over-populated Earth. Stranded until they can repair their spaceship, they try and make the most of their time in middle America.

Much like the aforementioned series, Solar Opposites bears a striking degree of resemblance to the Adult Swim monolith Rick and Morty, in terms of animation style, humor, and voice acting. The blue alien scientist Korvo, voiced by Roiland, sounds strikingly similar to Rick Sanchez. The Rick and Morty-esque brand of surreal, nihilistic humor is also present to a certain degree in Solar Opposites.

However, there is one major quality that sets Solar Opposites apart from its sibling-series: the script. Rick and Morty is a semi-improvised anti-sitcom with very little regard for the fourth wall, while Solar Opposites isn’t improvised at all (or at least it doesn’t sound improvised). It doesn’t even break the fourth wall as much; definitely no more than cartoons like Adventure Time or Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy have in years past. Solar Opposites is a genuine, honest-to-god sitcom. It even sneaks in some classic tropes, like when the parents and children both hide something from the other party for fear of upsetting them.

The same-sex parenting dynamic of “evacuation partners” Terry and Korvo also adds some positive LGBT+ representation; this is consistent with Rick and Morty (re: Rick dating a hivemind, Jerry and Sleepy Gary’s vacation, Jerry’s polyamorous parents, the “Trunk People” bit), but Terry and Korvo’s relationship is more plot-central. The Rick and Morty examples I just listed are, for the most part, plot points or thinly-veiled commentaries contained to single episodes. However, some fans have theorized that Rick is pansexual, and if you ask me, the evidence adds up.

The Wall is located in Jesse and Yumyulack’s bedroom.

Solar Opposites also has a genuinely interesting B-plot that develops over the course of the first season, whereas dramatic plot developments in Rick and Morty (re: Tammy’s betrayal, Evil Morty becoming president of the Citadel) are tossed aside, because in the words of Morty, “nobody belongs anywhere, nobody exists on purpose, [and] everybody’s going to die.” The B-plot in Solar Opposites, however, is very captivating and Roiland-ian; whenever Yumyulack and Jesse (the two alien children) encounter a human that angers (i.e. mildly inconveniences) them, they shrink them down with a ray-gun and put them in the Wall. The Wall is a roughly 10-foot-by-10-foot series of what appears to be interconnected hamster cages. The humans placed inside the wall form their own society, complete with a class system, a corrupt leader that definitely is not a metaphor for Trump (okay, now I’m being sarcastic), a religion based around their alien captors, and one man who leads a working class revolution.

Overall, I suggest that people should try and not view Solar Opposites as some type of diet Rick and Morty; but rather as its more calculated and tame (and I use that term very loosely) sibling in the realm of Justin Roiland’s creative sphere. At the end of the day, Solar Opposites is an enjoyable show; it probably won’t rise up to the cult success of Rick and Morty, but it’s great for casual viewing. The whole first season dropped May 8th via Hulu, and since we’re all stuck at home, you might as well give it a shot.

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REVIEW: Sick on Sunday Bring the Riffs on “Welcome to the Major Leagues”

By: Nick Manduley

Toms River easycore sextet Sick on Sunday goes off with a bang on their debut record Welcome to the Major Leagues, released independently in 2017. The opening track, “Torn Ligaments,” opens with a cacophony of radio static and soundbites of top 40 hits before the band comes out swinging with a delightfully catchy riff and an infectious chorus to boot. “Ligaments” is followed by the title track which leaves a lasting impression on the listener. “Welcome to the Major Leagues” will resonate with anyone who’s ever been too anxious to talk to someone they’re interested in romantically. The boys push on with yet another great chorus, this one bound to be stuck in the heads of easycore fans everywhere, especially with a message as uplifting as “no one is really out of your league.”

The record pushes on with two more pop punk firecracker tracks, “If You’re a Featherweight, Then I’m a Dump Truck” and “Watch Your Back, Kid!” Both songs will instill a sense of nostalgia in anyone who discovered bands like Four Year Strong and A Day to Remember during their adolescence. “Featherweight” features a crazy breakdown that speeds up and builds as the song concludes, easily making this a track a go-to for anyone who loves to mosh. “Watch Your Back” packs an equally heavy punch with a surprisingly radio-friendly chorus that easily makes this track a fan favorite.

“Sadie Hawkins Dance” is a cheekily paints a story of being in grade school and attending an annual dance where girls are encouraged to invite boys out. “Courtesy Flush,” despite the funny name, but put forth an important message about chasing your dreams even in the face of adversity; not to mention that good-ole-fashioned low-and-slow breakdown before the final chorus. “Moving Forward Club” and “Wonder Woman Has a New Boyfriend” are the final tracks on the record. “Moving Forward” hits home for anyone who’s ever had a significant other that was simply impossible to please. A good takeaway from this jam is that one should always love themselves before loving others: “It’s like dating yourself / Maybe that’s what you have to do.”

“Wonder Woman” is the final song on the record and starts off with a massive breakdown before sliding into a melodic section with a wonderful keyboard melody. Sick on Sunday continues to show off their ability to write an amazing chorus on this track; this track will surely have you and your friends jumping up and down in synchronization. Fans who download Welcome to the Major Leagues will also get an acoustic version of the title track in addition to the full record. Listeners can find the record on all major streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.

Bad Moves Hits Us With Pop-Powerhouse Track “Cape Henlopen”

By: Nick Manduley

Since I’ve recently begun writing for Asbury Park Vibes, my first instinct was to write this review for that. However, I thought that since I already covered the last Bad Moves single on here, I should keep it consistent.

We are now just under a month away from the release of Untenable, Bad Moves’ sophomore LP. It was almost yesterday that kids far and wide heard the band jamming out “Give it a Shot” on Cartoon Network’s Craig of the Creek, months prior to the release of Tell No One.

Cape Henlopen” is the third single off Untenable, and could easily become a fan favorite from the new record. The track starts with a rumbling drum-and-bass section courtesy of bassist Emma Cleveland and drummer Daoud Tyler-Ameen. Some catchy vocal hooks about “sinking into the sun” are layered onto the track before exploding into a guitar-driven chorus; one that cements this song as something I definitely want to listen to while relaxing on a warm beach.

Bad Moves is one of those bands where every member has a wonderful singing voice. The only downside is that it’s a tad difficult to tell who’s singing what from simply listening to the track. However, Bad Moves regularly delivers on the catchy vocal melodies and sublime harmonies, so as a lover of music, I’m not super bothered about who’s singing what. But, as someone with a journalism degree, I’ll be painstakingly waiting for either a music video or some live videos to find out what vocals belong to whom.

“Cape Henlopen” is arguably one of the more guitar-light tracks in Bad Moves’ currently available catalog. Cleveland delivers some delicious basslines and Tyler-Ameen keeps the band moving to a steady beat with ease, and I quite enjoy hearing them take more of a center-stage role on this single. However, guitarists/vocalists Katie Park and David Combs still bring some infectious lead parts and garage-punk sounding chords to the mix. Overall, “Henlopen” is another fun single under Bad Moves’ belt, and I’ll definitely be spinning it while I “sink into the sun” myself this weekend.

“Cape Henlopen” is available on all major streaming platforms, but I highly recommend purchasing the track and/or pre-ordering Untenable on bandcamp; there’s never been a better time to support small bands than now. Untenable drops June 26th via Don Giovanni Records.

Bad Moves Release Socially-Distant Video for New Single “End of Time”

By: Nick Manduley

Washington, D.C. power-pop quartet Bad Moves released a music video for their new single “End of Time” earlier this afternoon. “End of Time” is the second single (following “Party With The Kids Who Wanna Party With You”) off their upcoming record, Untenable, which is due out May 29th via Don Giovanni Records.

The video is a moving collage of trippy visuals and vintage footage, cut with web-cam video recordings of the band members singing along to the tune; a very appropriate concept for a music video during a global pandemic, especially for a song called “End of Time.”

Contrary to what the title may imply, “End of Time” is a surprisingly uplifting track. Well, maybe uplifting isn’t the most accurate word to describe this song… Though the lyrics are laden with positive messages like “Still having a good time” and “Maybe things will turn out fine,” the hook still ties back in with “Or maybe it’s the end of time!” I suppose “uplifting” in the context of this single would translate to “optimist-leaning nihilism.”

However, the message is clear; though news stories of people “protesting” the virus and stay-at-home orders across the nation are quite disconcerting, it’s important to remain as hopeful and optimistic as we can. Assuming the worst and panicking will accomplish nothing, except for making us feel worse.

Musically, “End of Time” captures what Bad Moves has continuously done best; catchy riff-and-melody driven garage rock. The nature of this video showcased each band member singing their parts of the song, whereas the focus of their past videos have been mainly on performance and narrative aspects. The simplistic web-cam footage of each band member, with no instruments in sight, highlights how awesome it is to be in a band where everyone is a great singer. Harmony has always been central to Bad Moves’ vocal performances, and it’s certainly not lost on “End of Time.”

Poeta Drops New Single, “Anxious Racing”

By: Nick Manduley

Brick, NJ ambient-rockers Poeta dropped their newest single “Anxious Racing” on May 1st via CI Records. Ever since the release of their debut album Golden Fields in 2017, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of new material from this four-piece (no pun intended). Poeta is one of those bands that you discover online late at night that make you wonder how they aren’t twice as big as they are. The captivating songwriting coupled by absolutely stellar musicianship and vocals are enough to hook the listener regardless of what song they listen to first; nonetheless, “Anxious Racing” is something special. 

The track opens with the fade-in of drummer George Powell’s uplifting percussive prowess, followed by the biting riffage of guitarist Anthony Dentino. Guitarist and vocalist Kevin Torres gives what is now my favorite vocal performance on any Poeta song to date. Torres delivers a devastating screamed verse, immediately chased by the powerful high-register vocals any Poeta fan would be familiar with. 

“Anxious Racing” is an anthem for a time when the world is facing a mental health crisis, and anxiety disorders are more common and central to the mental health dialogue than ever before. Anyone who’s felt “at the end of [their] rope” or questioned why they “have to feel this way” will certainly resonate with this track.  My band Drive, Kid was scheduled to play a show in early April with Poeta that, of course, was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak; it would have been our second time sharing the stage with them since July 2018. I hope that once this is over, that show will be rescheduled, and there will be many more opportunities to catch one of Poeta’s electrifying live performances. Until then, keep up to date with the band on social media for any quarantine-appropriate content, and of course, stream “Anxious Racing” on the major streaming service of your choosing.

‘The Rise of Skywalker’ Ends The Skywalker Saga With A Bang

(WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT, YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GO WATCH IT BEFORE YOU READ THIS.)

By: Nick Manduley

There’s a unique type of energy (a “force,” if you will..) that all Star Wars fans feel when the words “a long, long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away..” appear in that oh-so familiar shade of blue on the movie theater screen as the lights dim. That energy was very much present as I sat down in the theater to watch Director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

Dan Mindel’s cinematography in The Rise of Skywalker has without question set the bar for the Skywalker Saga. Mindel also worked on The Force Awakens in 2015, and brought us stellar imagery with the formidable Starkiller Base, as well as the contrast between Rey’s sand-speeder zooming across the dunes of Jakku against the ruins of a massive Imperial Star Destroyer in the background. However, it’s safe to say that Mindel has outdone himself in Rise of Skywalker; Rey and Kylo Ren’s epic duel on the sunken remnants of the second Death Star was nothing short of showstopping, not to mention the gargantuan fleet of Star Destroyers painting the skies of Exegol. 

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver deliver powerful performances as Rey and Kylo Ren. They are practically the characteristic focus of the sequel trilogy, having come full circle in The Rise of Skywalker. Over the course of three movies, both characters show a great deal of development. Rey goes from a starry-eyed desert scavenger with a knack for battle in Abrams’ The Force Awakens, to a determined Jedi in training in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, to an unstoppable force of power in The Rise of Skywalker. Kylo Ren went from an unstable soldier of the Dark Side, riddled with inner turmoil, to the (MILD SPOILER ALERT) redeemed Ben Solo, after a tear-jerking conversation with the ghost of his father, Han Solo (Harrison Ford). My only real gripe with Rey and Kylo in The Rise of Skywalker, without revealing too much, is the somewhat forced romance. The two share some tender moments onscreen; while some of which, I would argue, are significant in meaning to the story of Star Wars, I can’t deny there points when I felt like I was viewing blatant fanservice. 

Shifting gears to the classic Star Wars cast, The Rise of Skywalker magnificently portrays Luke, Leia, and Han as exactly the people they are; the young rebels who took on an Empire, and are now passing on their spirit and determination to a younger generation. Through Han, Ben is redeemed. Through Luke, Rey finds the strength to face Palpatine. Through Leia, the Resistance stands on its own two feet. Speaking of Leia, many have wondered how the series would (or could) wrap up following the tragic passing of actress Carrie Fisher in December 2016. In a 2018 article from ScreenRant, J.J. Abrams confirmed that Fisher’s performance in The Rise of Skywalker would be generated completely from unused footage taken from The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. The result was a tasteful, well executed rendering of Fisher’s performance; it was as if Fisher had been brought back to life through the spirit and magic of Star Wars.

However, like many films from this franchise, there’s always a bone to pick somewhere. This should be a given, considering that Star Wars fans are known across the vast expanse of the internet as being notoriously difficult to please; not that this negates any valid criticism, of course. 

The Rise of Skywalker had me on the edge of my seat. The whole time. For about 80 to 90 percent of this two and a half hour film, I was on the edge of my seat, and to be honest, it was a little exhausting. Most Star Wars films of years’ past will typically give you some breathing room between the high stakes action, in favor of character and/or story development. The Rise of Skywalker felt like I was getting pummeled with both, simultaneously, as if I was getting jumped by two mobsters behind an Olive Garden. Plot-wise, it’s a very busy film, especially when compared to its predecessor, The Last Jedi. The eighth installment in the Skywalker Saga, courtesy of Director Rian Johnson, is rather simplistic in plot; the resistance works to escape certain death from the First Order while Rey trains under Luke on Ahch-To. I don’t want to reveal more than I already have about the plot of The Rise of Skywalker to anyone who hasn’t seen it, but it squeezes so much plot, action, and new information into this 142 minute time frame, that I left the theater feeling like I watched more than one movie. While I still overall enjoyed the film, this is definitely not a movie you want to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of. 

At the end of the day, The Rise of Skywalker is a textbook emotional roller coaster. The Skywalker Saga has certainly gone out with a bang, and I will look back on this saga fondly for years to come. While not completely without flaw, The Rise of Skywalker still is, and always will be, an action-packed Star Wars adventure that’s fun for everybody. 

“Main Street Nights” by Love, Rose Is A Catchy Tribute To Friends, Loved Ones, & New Jersey

By: Nick Manduley

Point Pleasant-based singer-songwriter Marissa Cifelli independently released her debut solo EP Main Street Nights on September 30th, 2018 under the stage name Love, Rose. Cifelli is known around the South and Central New Jersey music scenes, and has provided vocals in local acts such as punk band Tomorrow Sun (since rebranded as Someday You’ll Know Us) and metal band Ventress.

Despite Cifelli’s background in fronting heavy bands, Main Street Nights shows a softer, more chill side to her musical range. The ukulele-driven EP was produced by CJ Rarela, formerly of the pop punk quintet Cardinals. Rarela provides background instrumentation on the release.

Main Street Nights kicks off with the the catchy track “Don’t Shoot the Messenger.” The track opens with Cifelli plucking some notes on her ukulele before strumming along into the first verse. “Don’t Shoot” is an uplifting track about persevering through one’s own insecurities and anxieties in order to achieve a goal. The release continues with “Not So Far Apart,” a track about staying passionate in a long distance relationship, and missing one’s significant other.

“‘Not So Far Apart’ is about the relationship I have with my current boyfriend, and how I was physically absent for half the relationship,” says Cifelli. “[My parents] made me live with them when they would move back and forth between Florida and New Jersey because my Dad hates winter…. [and because] my boyfriend Jon is a patient soul, I knew we were close even though we were miles and miles away from each other.” Cifelli would skype, text and call her boyfriend regularly to keep in touch. “Not So Far Apart” channels the longing one feels when separated from a loved one, which is something everyone is likely to feel at some point in their lives. Rarela’s emotive keyboard playing ties well with Cifelli’s gentle ukulele strumming throughout the song.

The EP closes with “On My Way,” an emotional ballad-like track that is perfectly fitting of Cifelli’s powerful singing voice. The track serves as an ode to the state of New Jersey and all the friends Cifelli has made in the Garden State. Despite the tropical vibes of Florida, Cifelli finds it difficult to be away from her friends and community in New Jersey.

“My heart is in NJ, and you can take the girl out of Jersey but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl!” said Cifelli. Fans who opt to pick up the deluxe edition of Main Street Nights will be able to check out Cifelli’s cover of “Astronaut,” featuring guest vocals from ex-Cardinals frontwoman Emily Ronna. Cifelli performs her original music every other Tuesday at the Saige Coffee House in Jackson. She will also be performing as Love, Rose on June 23rd at a Pride Showcase at the Rev Lounge in Tom’s River with KK Reaper and the Carnies of Chaos, Anaconda Plan, and many other LGBTQ+ acts. Fans can expect a new track on an upcoming compilation album with Ventress and many other bands.