Word of My Dead Girlfriend hitting the studio reached social media earlier this year, but the subsequent talk of a new release quickly died down amidst a global pandemic and general tumult of 2020. Fast forward to the early fall, and the news of the band’s upcoming EP “shaman’s daughter”, felt more surprising than it did something we’d been anticipating for roughly half a year.
The journey toward the new EP started in early 2019 when My Dead Girlfriend front man, Yuki Ishikawa, was contacted by indie filmmaker, Yusuke Isaka. Isaka had begun working on a dark comedy-horror movie called “Shaman’s Daughter” (シャーマンの娘), and, having been a fan of My Dead Girlfriend since high school, reached out to the band about submitting music for the film. By June, Ishikawa was ready to commit to the project, and from late-2019 to early-2020 the band was working on new material.
Two of the tracks from the EP, lead single “rebirth and karma” and the closer “winter reminds me of you” appear in the film as the ending theme and background music, respectively. Additionally, plenty of earlier My Dead Girlfriend songs are used throughout. Though only two of the five songs on the new release ended up in the film, Ishikawa cites the band’s involvement in the project as a major reason that the EP came to fruition – he also noted some interesting similarities between the film’s plot and My Dead Girlfriend’s own worldview – and felt it appropriate to carry some of the image of the film over to the release via the EP’s title and jacket art.
From purely a musical standpoint, “shaman’s daughter” pulls together My Dead Girlfriend’s range of sounds into a very cohesive collection of songs. For a short-form release, there are a lot of looks into the My Dead Girlfriend soundscape. “The secret of sunflowers” is a dark, tom-thumping march of an intro that waxes and wanes in intensity, swerving between shoegaze and post punk. It’s a positively jarring way to kick off the EP. From there, you get the EP’s signature song, “rebirth and karma”, which is a shoegaze track through and through, pushing the lush guitars to the forefront of the mix, but with a delicate balance between the harsh tones and the fluttering twin vocal melodies that define My Dead Girlfriend’s sound. “Zaiakukan no nichiyoubi”, the only track on the EP that was not written specifically for the film, is probably the most My Dead Girlfriend song on the whole thing, walking the fine line between blaring shoegaze and candy-sweet pop and boasting the most addictive chorus on the release.
“Iliad” is a fun bit of chaos, going from essentially a simple, pacey power pop tune to a breakbeat-driven guitar tone exploration. Ishikawa talked a bit about working with engineer Kensei Ogata in the studio, saying, “he suggested a lot of interesting ways to use our guitars and our pedals”. Whatever those suggestions may have been, you get the feeling that they worked their way into “iliad” as well as perhaps the opening number. On the other hand, “winter reminds me of you”, is straightforward. It’s as sweet and nostalgic a pop song as the title implies and you can at least imagine the sort of scene it might be used as a backdrop for in the film. The dreamy ambient outro is a nice touch.
Overall, “shaman’s daughter” is a really strong effort from My Dead Girlfriend, and the production work of engineer Kensei Ogata really pushes the song quality, through. Given the relationship of the album to the film, it will be interesting to see how the songs – old and new – will be used there, and that context adds a different and interesting dimension to the release. At the moment, it sounds like the movie will drop sometime in 2021, though releases can be a bit unpredictable right now. You can check out a number of different trailers in the meantime if you’re interested.
While talking about plans for the band coming into 2020, Ishikawa spoke of plans for the band’s first performances overseas that were dashed by the coronavirus pandemic. Even with the situation seemingly improving in Japan in recent months and limited capacity live events resuming, My Dead Girlfriend remains cautious of touring in support of “shaman’s daughter”. While the rest of 2020 and perhaps well into 2021 maybe be difficult to plan for, Ishikawa expressed a desire to continue making new music and put out a new full album “in the near future”. Stay tuned.
While there are plans to make “shaman’s daughter” available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify (with no plans for a Bandcamp release), for the time being it will be exclusively a physical release. You can purchase copies internationally here.
For information on the film, “Shaman’s Daughter”, you can visit the project’s crowdfunding site here (Japanese language) for details and trailers.
The video for “rebirth and karma”, which includes footage from the movie, can be seen below.
“Shaman’s Daughter” film trailer #1: