One of the most enduring talents in pop music, Carly Simon is back with a fascinating, deeply revealing new album that is as much a collection of short stories as it is an album. Simon has been compared to writers like Joan Didion for her ability to zero in on urban angst, and here she proves she hasn't lost her edge when it comes to marrying adult subject matter to popular song. The album harks back to the thoughtful soft-rock sound that empowered her '70s hits. It opens with the suggestion of romance -- in the catchy "Our Affair," Simon hints at being "one little breath away/From our affair." Her singing is strong and direct. Probably the most vulnerable and beautiful song here is "So Many Stars," a very New York story that finds Simon wandering the city and wondering about the depth and reality of romance in the urban landscape. The song culminates in an emotional, chilling moment, as Simon takes us from a subway turnstile to a sense of loneliness in the universe and of the fears and expectations that come with romantic love. Simon's voice has never sounded more fiery and beautiful. The many standouts include "Cross the River," "Scar," and the in-your-face "We Your Dearest Friends," a brutally honest assessment of social climbers. Years in the making, the brave, clear-eyed THE BEDROOM TAPES was obviously a major labor of love for Simon; she has -- like nowhere before -- laid her heart and mind before the listener.