Ethel Cain’s relationship with pop is almost as difficult as her relationship with God. Impressed by her restrictive upbringing in a rural Southern Baptist neighborhood, the songwriter Hayden Anhedönia, born in Tallahassee and primarily based in now Alabama, launched her stage persona on her breakout EP, 2021’s Inbred. In its songs, she introduced herself as a type of American gothic Lana Del Rey, with a aptitude for lurid prose about hateful intercourse and violent impulses. Break up between dreamy, up to date pop and brutalist, witchy dirges, the EP left unsure whether or not Cain, then 23, was setting out for cult stardom or precise stardom. At instances, just like the opening single “Michelle Pfeiffer,” she gave the impression to be campaigning for complete TikTok saturation; at others she sounded as if she may retreat completely again into the woods.
Like Inbred, Preacher’s Daughter, Cain’s full-length debut, locations its catchiest pop salvo up entrance. With its heartland-rock pomp and beaming guitars, “American Teenager” performs like one thing off Taylor Swift’s Converse Now, a style of the type of mass-appeal anthems Cain might make if she opted to decide to that route. The remainder of the document, although, makes clear she has little interest in that. For the majority of the album’s heady 90 minutes, she turns her again on pop in favor of roiling gloom and smoldering Americana. If “American Teenager” didn’t so effectively introduce the album’s motifs—disenfranchised youth, onerous residing, and misplaced beliefs—it’d be an entire fakeout.
Preacher’s Daughter softens a few of Ethel Cain’s extra subversive edges, humanizing a personality that Anhedönia first envisioned as a cult chief. Right here she’s extra of a tragic heroine in a doomed romance. The torchy “Western Nights” vaguely outlines a story involving a lady and her Harley-riding boyfriend crossing state traces, on the run from their previous and nonetheless bearing household traumas. Cain initially conceived the album as a screenplay; it’s seemingly the completed movie would have had echoes of David Lynch’s Wild at Coronary heart. All of it may sound a little bit brisker if Lana Del Rey hadn’t already mined these character archetypes exhaustively.
The document is paced like dripping candle wax, with most of its songs spilling over pop’s tidy working instances. That leaves loads of time to luxuriate in Cain’s exceptional voice. On the rootiest songs, “Exhausting Instances” and “Thoroughfare,” her voice rings with the sterling readability of Natalie Service provider. Simply as usually, although, it’s caked in soot or seething with disdain. On the industrial-shocked “Ptolemaea,” the document’s lone descent into nightmarish terror, she breaks open the music with an agonizing shriek any horror director would envy. Cain’s songs usually threaten to erupt, however “Ptolemaea” is without doubt one of the few that actually does.
Preacher’s Daughter would profit from a couple of extra uncooked thrills; too usually the haunted, churchy ambiance falls right into a predictable stasis. There’s a disconnect between Cain’s provocative public picture and the inflexible composure of those songs, which hardly ever shock the way in which Inbred’s did. The album’s size works in opposition to it, too. Cain winnowed the document down from what she as soon as deliberate to be a two-plus-hour epic, and at instances she feels like she’s writing to expire the clock. The album buckles below the load of its many seven-minute songs, every of which dulls the influence of the subsequent. As charming as Cain’s mood-setting could be, Preacher’s Daughter is such a gradual burn you periodically surprise if the flame is even nonetheless lit.