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HO HO WHO: David Bazan, singer and guitarist for the defunct slowcore band Pedro the Lion, releases his annual Christmas single. Since putting Pedro the Lion to rest in 2005, Bazan—who infiltrated the indie scene with Christian overtones long before Sufjan Stevens—has produced a few tracks every holiday season. Previous singles include a cover of John Lennon‘s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” This year’s composition is a much sadder beast.

CHINESE FOOD AND A MOVIE: The Sleigher hopes “Wish My Kids Were Here” is some kind of very black parody, because its title isn’t masking anything. The song’s narrator is distanced from his small children over the holidays, left to pass the season with his girlfriend’s family in Nashville while the kids stay with their mother in Alabama. The girlfriend and her “Christmas-crazy parents” are full of Yuletide cheer, but that doesn’t elicit anything more than a fake smile. Bazan’s slow, simple, acoustic melody matches the plaintive, deepening lyrics. The B-side is a bit more uplifting with a recording of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which Bazan previously recorded with Pedro the Lion in 2004. The solo version drops the keyboard in favor of a guitar backed only by a looping bell.

BOTTLE OF WHISKY AND A REVOLVER: Did The Sleigher mention how depressing this song is? The song descends into desperate attempts to show some Christmas spirit undone by lonely, depressive drinking. As much as the narrator wants to see his kids, the feeling isn’t mutual and there’s even a court order barring so much as a Christmas morning phone call. Fortunately this situation is not true to Bazan’s life. Though Bazan is on the road as much as a third of a year, he told a Seattle music blogger called DJ El Toro, he did take inspiration from some of friends’ divorces and subsequent custody issues. “And I started sympathizing, and even empathizing,” Bazan told the blogger. “I could see me, the screw-up, in them.”

CHEER FACTOR: 0.5/10. Bazan’s guitar picking and morose singing are as good as ever, but “Wish My Kids Were Here” should be added to the list of contributing factors to Seasonal Affective Disorder. The barely positive score is due only to the song’s final twist.

LISTEN: David Bazan – “Wish My Kids Were Here”[audio:http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/files/2010/12/01-Wish-My-Kids-Were-Here.mp3|titles=David Bazan – “Wish My Kids Were Here”]