In her old band, NYCís Madder Rose, Mary Lorsonís voice centered an agitated, slightly spectral guitar-based rock that subverted the bubblier qualities of pop with darkly ominous hues. Meanwhile, Saint Low, a side project of sorts for Lorson (who of late has been playing keyboards with Bostonís Willard Grant Conspiracy), has become home to her torch-song trilogies. Tricks for Dawn, her second Saint Low disc, is a collection of confessional, cabaret-leaning pop songs with arrangements built around her spare piano playing rather than her guitar. Slow simmer and gentle shimmer are the rules of the game: each song is shaped by Lorsonís relaxed yet deliberate mid-tempo, adult-contemporary approach and accented with strings and brass. And even the catchiest material can be a bit slow to reveal its charms. Sheís at her alluring best on tracks like "Friends, I Have Been Drinking," on which Madder Rose guitarist Billy Cote supplies Luna-esque guitar shadings. "Morningless Dreamer" borrows a bit too liberally from latter-day Joni Mitchell, and at nearly six and a half minutes "Long Way Down" (with Evan Dando guesting on vocals and guitar) could have used an editor. But the bittersweet breeze of "Accelerate" and a handful of other gems proves that Lorson can stand on her own.
(Mary Lorson & Saint Low play the Lizard Lounge this Friday, May 24. Call 617-547-0759.)