Glass Apple Bonzai
Brother Bones
Distortion Productions

Daniel Belasco’s Glass Apple Bonzai started life as a synthpop act, but the sound of new album Brother Bones is a culmination of the Canadian artist’s move towards a fuller, more band-oriented setup for the project. It’s a change that makes a lot of sense for Belasco; while he’s certainly a dab hand as a synth player and vocalist, he’s also a skilled multi-instrumentalist and a producer. With the heart of GAB’s material always being well-written hooky songs, it’s less a change in identity than an expansion of what the band has always been.

To that end, you’re gonna hear a lot more bass, guitar and live drums than on any preceding Glass Apple Bonzai record here. And that works; while a track like opener “Mysteries” definitely has a slick, new wave sheen laid over its straight-ahead rock rhythm, the synth arpeggios anchor the track to the sound GAB has been plying since their first self-titled release. Further into the album, tracks like “The Changes In Your Heart” and the mournful “As The Stars Fill an Empty Sky” are equally of a piece with what Belasco has been doing with since day one, building out his arrangements around his deceptively simple synthesizer hooks, and using his rich baritone to full effect on his choruses.

If anything, the uplifting, yet melancholic vibe that Glass Apple Bonzai has been pursuing for a few records is bolstered by the rock instrumentation. Where a cut like “Day After Day” would have worked fine as a purely electronic number, the addition of electric bass and tasteful guitar licks around its synth stabs give it the kind of rock radio feel, head-nodding and easily remembered after the first listen. It’s also an avenue for songs that wouldn’t have worked as well without that approach; the wha-oh wha-oh chorus of “Stepping Outside” is all the better for the guitar lines that go off behind it, with the use of dueling instrument solos perfectly leading to as catchy an outro as Belasco has ever written.

While listening to the record for the purposes of this review, my music app would immediately start playing “A Million Foolish Hands”, the side 1, track 1 of the first Glass Apple Bonzai album, upon completing a playthrough of Brother Bones. That contrast between what Belasco is doing with the band in 2024 versus his earliest GAB recordings only serves to drive home how much the instrumental changes haven’t altered the essence of the songcraft and performance at the heart of the catalogue. It’s about the songs, and those remain as catchy, touching and sneakily clever as always.

Buy it.