Record labels have spent untold millions trying to get balladeers to sound vulnerable on tape, to sing with such intimacy that it feels like they’re sharing a secret with the listener. This ability comes naturally to Ralph Miro, the Scarborough singer/songwriter who performs as Dana Massive. Miro sings with an ever-present brink-of-tears tremble, like a yodeler perched on the precipice between tenor and falsetto. On his second LP, Love’s Real/not, he employs this gift with varying degrees of success, but not for a second do I doubt his sincerity. This is furiously scribbled diary-entry lyricism about life’s highest highs and lowest lows. It’s most effective when paired with up-tempo arrangements, like the sprightly acoustic picking of “Hold Me Close” and the swirling seesaw riffage of “Took My Soul.” But Miro’s go-to trope is the ponderous piano ballad. With little more than a sustain pedal to support them, the nearly seven-minute tracks “Love’s Real” and “This Box” feel aimless — heartfelt, but in need of a heartbeat. A voice like this deserves better. Here’s hoping Miro keeps experimenting with instrumentation and pushing his vocal versatility.
— Joe Sweeney
Dana Massive plays a CD release show at Empire, in Portland, on Dec. 28.