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Dear and the Headlights craft convincingly melancholy debut

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Ian Metzger of Dear and the Headlights is the kind of singer who could break your heart with a cover of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Not that anyone's suggesting he should do that.

But it would be really sad.

And any number of the more inspired moments of Dear and the Headlights' Small Steps, Heavy Hooves would appear to be taking a cue from Metzger's vocals, from the world-weary strum of acoustic guitar that sets the album's tone to the chorus of "Run in the Front," where a break in the wall of sound finds Metzger pining over someone he'll be missing.

This Phoenix band's debut for Equal Vision is, for the most part, richly textured chamber-pop using acoustic guitars as a launching pad. Most of the songs pick up on the melancholy mood established by the lead-off, "Oh No!," which starts with Metzger sighing, "Oh no, I had a thought and a feeling / I watched 'em fasten the noose." Which sounds like a walk in the sunshine compared to the sadness of "Happy in Love," where nobody's happy, or "It's Gettin' Easy," where nothing is easy.

And the weird thing is, he sounds just sounds as convincing in his "Mint Car" moment, "I Just Do," an unabashedly romantic pop song extolling the virtues of a love that leaves him breathlessly "rushing to open your car door."

Dear and the Headlights with Plain White T's, Boys Night Out and Lovedrug. 7 p.m. Tue., April 24 (doors 6 p.m.). Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $15. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com

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