Most indie-rock types have an awkward relationship with Christmas music, a genre steeped in sentimentality and tradition that are theoretically opposed to the underground’s progressive thinking and musical innovation. For David Bazan, whose records tracked a transition from struggling Christian believer to outspoken agnostic, it’s extra complicated. So the prospect of a Christmas album from Bazan is highly intriguing, and just such an album is coming this fall, with a short West Coast tour to follow in December.
He’s actually been releasing this music little by little for more than a decade. As Pedro The Lion and under his own name, Bazan has recorded seven 7″ Christmas singles for Suicide Squeeze Records since 2002, all of them long since out of print. Dark Sacred Night collects 10 of those 14 tracks, remixing and remastering them into a collection of lo-fi carols for, as Bazan puts it, “depressive weirdos who want to sit and process their feelings about Christmas and reflect on the good and the bad and the past and all the stuff that’s mixed together in the crazy cocktail that is the holiday season.”
The album includes Christmas traditionals including “Silent Night” and “Away In A Manger” plus holiday pop songs such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” Its first advance single is one of the latter: a cover of “Long Way Around The Sea” from slowcore pioneers Low’s 1999 Christmas EP. Bazan shared some background on this choice of material:
Early on (in the process of making the yearly singles that would become Dark Sacred Night) it was difficult to find “Christmas songs” that were true enough (in my mind) for me to be able to sing them. When I heard Low’s “Long Way Around The Sea” I connected with it immediately: hidden motives, mass murder, quiet discernment, escape from tyranny, grown ups traveling to chill with a strange baby…so much (slow, sad) fun.
Hear Bazan’s version of the track below.
Dark Sacred Night tracklist:
01 “All I Want For Christmas”
02 “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”
03 “Away In A Manger”
04 “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
05 “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”
06 “Jingle Bells”
07 “Silent Night”
08 “Long Way Around The Sea”
09 “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”
10 “Wish My Kids Were Here”
David Bazan’s Christmas Miracle Tour:
12/04 Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
12/08 Los Angeles, CA @ Masonic Lodge
12/13 San Francisco, CA @ Swedish American Hall
12/17 Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall
12/18 Seattle, WA @ Neumos
Dark Sacred Night is out 11/11 on Suicide Squeeze. Pre-order it here, including 2,000 copies on blue-and-white-snow colored vinyl.