When she was still in high school, Allie O’Manique became known for her mesmerizing performances at DIY venues up and down the Ottawa river under the moniker Trails. With only a guitar, a loop pedal, and her ethereal presence, she could hypnotize an entire room. With her new self-titled EP as Jasmine Trails, O’Manique exchanges her lo-fi bedroom recordings for more elaborate instrumentation, backed up by musicians from Hilotrons, Scattered Clouds, and Shadowhand. The new lineup gives her more colours to play with, and O’Manique takes advantage of each sonic shade to paint meaning in her captivating narrative.
The EP opens with the shoegaze-reminiscent distorted bassline of “Dream Girl”. O’Manique’s rich alto vocals walk the line between lulling and sneering as she sings about the tug-of-war of falling into someone else’s vision of her identity versus embodying her own self. Breaking free is a theme that appears throughout Jasmine Trails, but O’Manique presents this act not as a singular explosion but as a practice of continual resistance.
The synths in “Candles” float like lights shimmering on an empty city pool and invite you in like an illicit midnight swim. Taking cues from Portishead, the track captures both the tenderness and the anxiety in intimacy’s shadow. “Alive and Well” stands as an upbeat epilogue with the nostalgic style of a house band at Twin Peaks’ Roadhouse. With the confident swagger of Leonard Cohen, O’Manique notices beauty in the laborious task of teaching the body to find comfort in the present moment. Her mantra, “I’m alive and well in Montreal” is not only grounding, but it is sung as a joyful expression that celebrates an escape from the past to that land of pink northern sunsets.
The real power of this EP is not its story of overcoming, but in the way it reveals and celebrates the beauty in resilience. Like her early recordings, the Jasmine Trails EP is soaked with the intimacy of the bedroom, but it has evolved beyond the confines of that space to explore its great possibilities. Through exceptional sonic and lyrical storytelling, Jasmine Trails mixes the darkness with colours to paint landscapes that capture the complex beauty of growth.