Last year’s ‘Inbred’ saw Florida-raised Ethel Cain step beyond the hushed bedroom production of her early work. Presenting a brilliantly unsettling picture of her troubled past, it marked a huge growth in confidence. It also provided an early snapshot of what she would go on to cement with this full-length debut. She has an unparalleled power to drag you into her world. Raised in a heavily religious setting by her pastor father, Ethel Cain emerged as the haunting creative outlet for Hayden Anhedönia. Rejected by her community for coming out as gay and then transgender, the project became an extension of everything Hayden wanted to be. Inspired by Florence Welch and Lana Del Rey, both of whom find influence deep under the gothic middle-America twang of ‘Preacher’s Daughter’, Hayden’s creation began to blur heavily with real life.
This dark duality runs through ‘Preachers Daughter’, Ethel and Hayden now seemingly interchangeable. On ‘Hard Times’ she longs for the love of a distant father with her distinct soft drawl. The way she approaches sex on ‘Gibson Girl’ is powerfully damaged, as the track effortlessly reimagines the stadium rock guitar solo. It’s never sounded so devastating. That Ethel lives on a diet of horror films in her converted 19th Century Indiana church isn’t lost on the sound. ‘Ptolemea’, one of the album’s many tracks running over six minutes in length, is nothing short of nightmarish.
But for all its gloom, ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ balances it with understated hope. Ethel Cain is a success story, after all. She’s an autobiographical embodiment of escape, and of a fresh start. ‘Thoroughfare’ jumps to a different world, touching on country in her unmistakable style. ‘American Teenager’ offers perfect epic pop told through Ethel’s black-tinged glasses. Here, Hayden battles with expectations and normality, deconstructing the modern American Dream. It questions the reality of being told you can be whoever you want to be. Ethel is who she is despite, and not because of, what has come before. Change, escape and identity are not easy things to navigate, and ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ is the dark, unsettling, sprawling beauty that comes out of it.
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The track features on her debut album ‘Preacher’s Daughter’.
Her debut album lands next month.
Her debut album arrives next month.
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