photo by Dennis Morton

If you’re familiar with WhoMadeWho, the name Tomas Høffding should ring a bell, as he is 1/3 of the aforementioned trio. At the beginning of 2021, he released a solo album Ild, Drømme, Frihed og Fred (eng. “Fire, dreams, freedom and peace”). It’s a lovely collection of musical poems in Danish, contemplating youth, childhood, life in all its glory as well as its obscurity, modesty and meritocracy.

Each of the songs on “Ild, Drømme, Frihed og Fred” is like a postcard. As if Tomas wrote them after opening a time capsule with memories of his childhood and youth, and now he looks back at them and sees some universal truths worth sharing with the world.

The album also sounds like a look back at life, an examination of the years that went by. It sounds like a love letter to living your life more in the way you did as a child. It sounds like an examination of conscience, a calm and peaceful assessment of the state of life right now. That last thing somehow feels very Danish. The quiet contemplation, with a dose of melancholy and sadness over some bittersweet (or only bitter) experiences, but also with peace and content over some of the more joyful memories. On “Ild, Drømme, Frihed og Fred” Tomas stops, looks around and meditates on the state of his life. He communicates a simple, yet valuable advice: don’t miss out on what is really important. Your relationships with people, your family, your friends. All in all, life is the star of Tomas’s songs. A life that is his, but might as well be your life, my life, or anyone else’s. A life that we live aware of how we live it.

The lyrics on “Ild, Drømme, Frihed og Fred” go from extremely graphic, as if they were a report or a detailed script, to poetic, metaphorical and mysterious. Tomas gets deeply personal on his album, but there is a dose of distance and perspective in his words. It feels as if he had looked at his life through a magnifying glass. He zooms in on certain scenes, details and memories, then brings up the poetry from them.

I find myself coming back to two songs: “Darupvej 109 (Et Liv Hvor Alt Kan Og Vil Ske)” (eng. “Darupvej 109 (A Life Where Everything Can And Will Happen)”) and “Ringede Til Johannes” (eng. “Called Johannes”). The first one always makes me want to dance. It is a great distraction from everyday frustrations. The second one is a perfect example of the album’s Danishness. The calm reflection on a memory from Tomas’s youth, with a hint of sadness and a feeling of loss. It makes me want to pick up the phone and call my “Johannes”, a person that used to be my whole world and best friend, but is now more of an acquaintance, because “life” got in the way. Tomas made a music video for “Ringede Til Johannes” with English subtitles.

Musically, “Ild, Drømme, Frihed og Fred” is a laid back album. The smooth compositions, enriched with saxophone solo or a stronger beat occasionally hitting through the guitar and drums blend into a pleasant, sophisticated yet strangely natural whole. Lovely, delicate backing vocals by Lydmor add light and air into the songs. When Tomas and Lydmor collaborate, the end result is always interesting, as it was with their duo project Lydmor & Bon Homme. There is an intriguing rhythm in the LP that makes me think of a heartbeat, a pulse of a living person. Sometimes slower, sometimes faster, but it is always there.

This album is a reflection on life’s ups and downs from a perspective of someone fully aware of where he is now. The beauty of “Ild, Drømme, Frihed og Fred” is that it shows life in an honest and plain way, and turns it into beautiful poetry. I let myself address Tomas Høffding in this text by his first name because I feel as if this was someone from my circle, telling me stories. There was an instant connection between me and the music. If you ever feel that your life is not enough, that you should push more, or you are getting disconnected from what used to matter most, or there is not enough “wow” factor in your life, listen to what Tomas Høffding says in his album. Life is a gem, and we need to learn how to notice its poetry in simple things, in boring things, in sad things and in wonderful little miracles that happen to us every day. We need to live our lives closer to each other and to ourselves.

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