Katie Herzig’s new album, Moment of Bliss, starts with a simple question: “How do you talk about a feeling, when you don’t know where it lives inside?” With that satisfyingly simple dream-pop gem, Herzig invites you into a song cycle that asks you to feel something the whole way through.
Fair warning: With this collection, Herzig isn’t re-inventing the wheel of her own musical instincts; she’s indulging them. In fact, you could call Moment of Bliss the third installment in a trilogy that began with 2011’s The Waking Sleep followed up by 2014’s Walk Through Walls, as all three were co-produced with long-time collaborator Cason Cooley.
“People have asked me what this album sounds like, and I whole-heartedly say, ‘It sounds like something I’d make.’ I’m indulging in the musical elements that have seduced me all along,” she admits, referring to the presence of layered vocals and percussive elements, the places where intimate meets epic, as programmed grooves and orchestral soundscapes intertwine with warm, organic textures and lyrics that dive well beneath the surface. It’s all there. And it’s a picture of an artist in her natural state.
But every journey of resignation reveals what is in need of healing. Well aware of the modern landscape of hyper-consumption and information overload in which we find ourselves, Katie became increasingly addicted to it all, and it led her to a breaking point — a spiritual awakening of sorts that she says she is still unpacking. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced but, through it, I started to see how all these songs were crying out for that moment. I think they helped lead me to it.”
She pauses, then adds, “It was as if I was seeking enlightenment through these songs.”
The set’s title track, in hindsight, would foreshadow her experience: “Hold your head up. I know your type. Can’t wait, so you meditate to the hype, to make an emotion you’re blocking the view … Say you’ll never, say you’ll never waste another moment of bliss, hanging around while you’re waiting to live.”
In the Latin-tinged “All This Time,” she sings, “Can you see it, every little piece of light, spinning in the air tonight, like something in the after-life?” It’s a way of acknowledging the unknowable within us and around us — the magic and meaning embedded within the interconnected universe, if only we would notice it. From the title track to “I Don’t Mind,” “Weight Lifting,” and “I Want to Make You Proud,” each entry serves as a reminder to stop, look, and listen for the beauty that is there.
Still, not everything in life is beautifully blissful, and Herzig sees those gaps, as well. The only song of the set written after the November 2016 election is “We Can’t Deny,” which Herzig delayed the release of her album to include. “I felt like I needed to include something that was written post-election to help connect this body of work to the here and now,” she says. “To be honest, I can’t imagine having written that song in any other time.”
“We live in times that feel like the tide has turned, like the truth is tainted. We live in times that tear at the fateful thread of a life un-wasted. We live in times that shape what the future holds and the future’s yearning. We live in times that ask what our voices bring to a world that’s burning,” she sings in a layered, whispery head voice. Further into the chorus, she repeats the call of “We can’t deny… where the water flows. We can’t deny… where the wind blows,” alluding to the the ever-heightening climate crisis on a planet that finds itself in an increasingly un-natural state.
“I can’t make a record without referencing the climate,” Herzig declares. “I can’t think of a greater moral dilemma that we face, as a civilization. It’s happening in real time all around us.” “I Don’t Mind” was also written on the topic. With its lingering lament of “how wonderful we have it here,” it evidences what Katie and Cooley can do when there are no limits to the production and arrangement possibilities of a song. It’s also a refreshing reminder that Herzig, while making her career on the outskirts of pop, has never followed any formula but her own.
Whether this record is a call to feel something, a conduit to a seeker’s personal spiritual awakening, or simply the indulgent third installment of an artist feeling her way through these enduring times, Moment of Bliss is an invitation into a place that is deep, vulnerable, and alive in the present moment.