Motorbike James Expresses Existential Wonder Through Well-Honed Songcraft on 'VIISIONS'

Motorbike James Expresses Existential Wonder Through Well-Honed Songcraft on 'VIISIONS'
The cover of Motorbike James' VIISIONS features a chrome-suited astronaut peering through a window, an image that certainly resonates after a socially distanced year.

But James (Michael Werbicki, formerly of Royal Tusk) isn't succumbing to pandemic ennui on his debut album — he's sorting through the drift of existence. VIISIONS' 10 songs coast through synth-pop, psychedelia, R&B and vaporwave on the road to big existential wonderings.

Werbicki bends every element at his disposal — burbling waves of synth, psych-warped guitars, lively drumming, his own chill-dude delivery, all of the aforementioned genres — into a unified, singular vision. That the album feels so fully realized is a credit to his sense of specificity (he also produced the record). VIISIONS is a skillfully immersive debut, drawing up a sonic landscape that feels right for traversing galaxy-brain questions without losing pop hooks along the way. The album is equally concerned with the vibe of the party as it is with the frequency of the soul.

The album's opening instrumental title track sets a tone of wavering synths and warm-up drums, before "Enamored" gives them a propulsive urgency. Album highlight "me Roll" takes its synths for a joyride, unhurried and confident as they stunt across its runtime, while "Jesus Age" and "Common Sensei" lean on guitars to frame their musings of aging and bacchanalia.

Werbicki describes himself as a stream-of-consciousness writer, and lyrically, he's adept knowing the best stoner-profound lines to jot down, like "I've stepped out of my consciousness a hundred times before / but this feeling now is one I can't ignore" on "Henlo Fren," Or, on the comedown vibes of closer "Lifetimes," musing about our limited time on Earth before expressing a simpler concern: "I don't wanna spend too much time on things that I don't care about."

That follow-up is key: Werbicki is drawn to philosophical queries that elude easy answers, but he never neglects the human sentiments behind asking them in the first place. VIISIONS expresses its existential wonder through well-honed songcraft, which more than sells the sentiment. (Slow Weather)