Bob is a cryptic concept album that gains more lyrical momentum from New York singer/songwriter Ward White’s novelistic eye and knack for capturing a moment than it does from linear motion. The eponymous character at its center is surrounded by a series of parallel and overlapping narratives, adding up to a tale that's almost Thomas Pynchon–esque in its storytelling sleight of hand. The musical framework that White fashioned to support his story is just as assiduously crafted. Between the singer’s penthouse-elevator vocal range (with plush, cloud-hopping melodies to match), Joe McGinty’s vintage-keyboard coloring, and White’s own eloquent lead guitar lines, Bob should lighten the heart of anyone who feared that classic art-pop à la David Bowie, Scott Walker, Sparks, et al., was an endangered species. Whoever Bob is, he’s far from an everyman, seemingly having more in common with the kind of characters frequenting Donald Fagen or Elvis Costello songs than those of, say, Bruce Springsteen. But White’s work here is all about achieving something indelibly uncommon.

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