Brock Willard managing editor
Ethel Cain is breakout superstar on the likes of Taylor Swift’s early career and her most recent album, “Preacher’s Daughter,” is going to rocket her to indie stardom.
The album, produced by Cain and Matthew Tomasi, and released by label Daughters of Cain, is the singer’s debut studio album released on May 12, 2022. The album has recently received popularity on social media and in other venues. The album features 13 tracks of varying lengths, totaling approximately 75 minutes of music. Additionally, the album is a concept album telling the fictional story of the singer’s namesake who runs away from home only to be captured and eaten alive at the hands of a cannibal psychopath.
The album shows Cain’s incredible stylistic diversity encompassing several genres including Americana, pop rock, folk, alt-pop, slowcore, heartland rock, classic rock, folk, gospel, industrial, and noise music. The progression of styles is carefully crafted so that Cain’s story is told in exactly the way she wants it to.
The album opens with “Family Tree” and aptly subtitled “Intro.” The track solidifies the religious elements that are implied by the title of the album, sampling a recording of a Southern Baptist preacher. The album quickly transitions into a semi-country song, “American Teenager” adding in synthesizers to the typical country ensemble.
The third track on the album, “House in Nebraska,” is one of Cain’s most well-written songs. It qualifies as a “torch song,” a sentimental song about a lost or unrequited love. The term comes from the figure of speech “holding a torch for someone.” Love songs are cliché for a number of reasons, but “House in Nebraska” makes all those cliches sting just a little bit harsher than in other places. It presents the real emotions of being the reason a relationship ended in quite an authentic way. The accompanying music to the melody is atmospheric enough that you hear the words with extreme clarity, but not so opaque that it becomes boring. The song reverses course in the last section with a stadium rock-style guitar solo reprising the first portion of the chorus melody.
The album proceeds with a number of storytelling songs such as “Western Nights,” “Hard Times,” and “Gibson Girl,” and I think the thing that Cain does so well in writing a concept album is giving the listener time to rest from the story being told. That seems counterintuitive to a narrative product such as a concept album, but Cain gives us just enough respite from the horrible tragedy that the album is ultimately about that we get a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, both narratively and musically. Her quick transitions to different musical genres do not feel so hectic since we have been given the chance to follow the side story as well as the main story. We get to see the layers underneath the story as well as the outer shell that most would follow all too easily.
“Preacher’s Daughter” is a rare mainstream concept album. As a genre of albums, they are not done all that often anymore, but Cain nails it in every way. “Preacher’s Daughter” receives an A-plus rating.