Ethel Cain Preacher's Daughter Daughters of Cain
Ethel Cain’s Preacher’s Daughter is a debut album that feels more like a mid-career magnum opus. The creative alias of 24-year-old, Tallahassee-born Hayden Silas Anhedönia, Ethel Cain has spent the last three years releasing a smattering of singles and EPs that occupy the haunted intersection between the American gothic and the American Dream. Even with that backdrop in mind, Preacher’s Daughter bursts out of the woods with a sound so monumental that it’s hard to take in all at once.
Over 13 tracks – half of them curdled power ballads – Anhedönia engages in a stadium-sized reckoning with Christianity. Raised in a Southern Baptist community in Florida’s Panhandle region (she left the church at 16 and later came out as trans), her music explores the church’s more monstrous elements while also embracing its stark, austere aesthetics: Gregorian chants, choral vocals, the crucifixes on plain, wood-panelled walls that comprise much of her artwork. Whether it’s Anhedönia bent over a bed or Pleasers splayed across a tar-brown carpet, she offsets everything with eroticism, her visual and musical language a meeting of the oppression and liberation that defines Preacher’s Daughter.
This is an album that pairs cock-rock riffs and 80s snares with thundering sludge and drone instrumentals. One moment Anhedönia is belting out radio-friendly pop lyrics about crying under the bleachers, like a young Taylor Swift; the next she’s delivering eerie lines like “even the iron still fears the rot” over six and a half minutes of doom metal. Elsewhere there’s a mix of country ballads (Sun Bleached Flies), torch songs (A House in Nebraska) and quiet bedroom pop (Hard Times). It’s Grouper-like intimacy with Genesis proportions; Lana Del Rey inspired by big-tent revivalism and body horror. All of which is anchored by Anhedönia’s voice, resplendent and seemingly infinite in register, and transforming this landslide of beauty and suffering into some of the most fearless songwriting in recent memory.