Temptation - Music from the Showtime Series Californication Abkco Records has just released a killer accompanying CD to Showtime's Californication. Originally available through iTunes in three "track packs," the 20-track disc collects songs by Bob Dylan, Peeping Tom, Harvey Danger, and The Heavy, a Paul Oakenfold remix of The Doors' "L.A. Woman," and a healthy dose of covers. The show is known for slipping unusual cover versions into the background, and the album is highlighted by takes on the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by Tommy Stinson & Friends, Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" by Gus Black, Elton John's "Rocket Man" by My Morning Jacket, and Alice Cooper's "Only Women Bleed," Cheap Trick's "Surrender," and Warren Zevon's "Don't Let Us Get Sick" by co-star Madeleine Martin. A digital edition adds six more tracks, and the soundtrack CD will also be found inside the first-season DVD set, due next week.


Thomas Dolby - The Sole Inhabitant A handful of old friends are back next week after extended sabbaticals from the spotlight. Hypnotic electronic pioneer Thomas Dolby returns with The Sole Inhabitant on Invisible Hands Music, a live CD and DVD set from Boston and Chicago in 2006. Like a chef in a mad laboratory and dressed in steampunk headgear and a post-apocalyptic trench coat, the solo performance revisits his classics from the 1980s, including "Europa & the Pirate Twins," "Flying North," "She Blinded Me with Science" and "One of Our Submarines." Surprises and insights include mixing in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech into "The Flat Earth" and sharing with the audience the origins of the songs.

Esopus The eclectic, twice-yearly publication Esopus magazine has made an accompanying CD a nifty part of its presentation, with previous issues - and tunes - inspired by the dreams of their readers, Ouija-board experiences, the content of spam e-mail, and Craigslist personals. The new issue, number 10, aims its lens at something we all could use a little more of: good news. This time out, 12 recording artists answered the editor's call and crafted exclusive songs inspired by an uplifting article from the daily newspaper or TV. Highlights include Chris Rehm's anticipation of his federal stimulus check, Man Man's relief at the news of an on-the-mend Liza Minnelli, and Langhorne Slim's acoustic ditty about the recovery of stolen Edvard Munch paintings. Marnie Stern and Artificial Man were both moved by the same event: a window-washer falling more than 40 stories and surviving this past December. Other participants embracing the feel-good lure include Ryan Adams, Busdriver, The Real Tuesday Weld, and The New Pornographers' Neko Case and Carl Newman.

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Better than an old Sears, Roebuck catalog nailed to the outhouse wall, the Bathroom Readers' Institute Press knows that sometimes a hearty morning constitutional goes better with reading material. So far they've printed nearly 20 volumes of their Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series, just releasing the latest: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into Music. I feel sorry for big families if there's a music-trivia nut in the bunch, as the 516 pages are packed with factual frivolity, sure to keep the "occupied" sign up for a while. From nuggets about unsung heroes such as Motown's Funk Brothers to musical word origins to rockers who died young to the first record purchases of major stars to Cab Calloway's jive dictionary, this and a pack of matches might be the perfect gift for Uncle Stinky.

Anywhere I Lay My Head Another actress crosses over into music next week with the release of Anywhere I Lay My Head from Scarlett Johansson. Featuring one original track, "Song for Jo," co-written with David Sitek of TV on the Radio (who also serves as producer and player), the rest of the CD consists of interpretations of songs by Tom Waits. Guests include Nick Zimmer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sean Antanaitis of Celebration, and David Bowie on two tracks: "Fannin' Street" and "Falling Down."

ColdplayColdplay fans should seek out the latest issue of Britain's New Music Express magazine and quickly surf to the band's Web site. The May 10 issue of NME features a free bonus seven-inch single of "Violet Hill" with a non-LP B side, "A Spell a Rebel Yell," and details can be found online about securing tickets to the band's free show at the Madison Square Garden on June 23.

Two years ago, British music journalist Will Hodgkinson crossed over from gazing wannabe to playing musician by teaching himself guitar in six months and documenting the journey in the book Guitar Man. The Da Capo Press has recently published his follow-up, Song Man, with the author writing his own song and recording it as a single. Subtitled A Melodic Adventure, or, My Single-Minded Approach to Songwriting, Hodgkinson cashes in on his Rolodex as a writer for Mojo and the Daily Telegraph and enlists superstars for encouragement and insight, from Keith Richards to Ray Davies to Chan Marshall.

Neil Hamburger Sad, tortured and painfully blundering, the acquired taste of Neil Hamburger and his stand-up routines are deliciously subversive, much to the delight of Tom Green and musicians Tenacious D, for whom he opened for on the group's international Pick of Destiny tour. Channeling Pat Paulsen, William Shatner, and Andy Kaufman, Hamburger's latest anti-humor antics snuggle up to the heartland, looking for love and a little respect in Neil Hamburger Sings Country Winners, out this week on the Drag City Records imprint. And not since Ween sucked on a sprig of hay dipped in PCP in 1996 with 12 Golden Country Greats has country music been strangled so wonderfully. Backed by a killer barnyard band featuring Tubes drummer Prairie Prince and Link Wray bassist Atom Ellis, Hamburger chews up (and spits out) the bucolic landscape with tear-jerkers "Please Ask That Clown to Stop Crying" and "Three Piece Chicken Dinner." He holds hands with the eternally despaired in "Garden Party II" and turns in a wild cover of John Entwistle's "Thinkin' It Over" (from his 1972 Whistle Rhymes album). Do a YouTube search for the video of "Jug Town" and catch the fever.

Elvis Costello & the Imposters - Momofuku This Saturday, the best brick-and-mortar record retailers across North America have organized a holiday of sorts in their own honor. Log on to (http://www.recordstoreday.com) to find out what shops in your area are participating, with a variety of special events and cool stuff that can't be squeezed through the Internet. Happenings include in-store appearances by Metallica, Panic at the Disco, Allison Moorer, Regina Spektor, Will Oldham, Thrice, Marshall Crenshaw, Steve Earle, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Peanut Butter Wolf. Many participating stores are offering deep discounts and are the only place you'll find Record Store Day-only releases on vinyl from Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks and others who haven't forgotten that the old days were maybe the best ways.

The Best of LCD An anomaly in today's hit-driven radio, WFMU-FM is an oasis in the New York marketplace. Founded in the late 1950s as a part of Upsala College and becoming independent in 1994, the beloved station is one of this country's last bastions of noncommercial, "free form" programming, with music selected by the eclectic taste and knowledge of the DJ, not some industry consultant. With madcap zeal and the battle cry of artistic freedom, the station has served as a musical education and inspirational soundtrack to the brightest and best minds within its reach, documented by its beautifully garish program guide, LCD (Lowest Common Denominator). The publication ceased in 1998, but for those of us who missed out the first time, senior disc jockey Dave the Spazz has assembled The Best of LCD: The Art & Writing of WFMU-FM 91.1FM, recently published by the Princeton Architectural Press. From missives on "monster punk garage music" to Dadaists Coyle & Sharpe to anti-rock-and-roll books from the born-again community to songwriter Doc Pomus, every page is an eyeball-twitching, gut-busting wonder.