5 Things You Need To Know Today

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1) BLOC return to London with a series of warehouse gigs

2)Ebony Day beats HAIM, Angel Haze & more to win ‘MTV Brand New For 2013′

3) BBC to live stream Glastonbury Festival for first time

4) Justin Timberlake to “comeback” at BRIT Awards 2013

5) Beyonce admit lip-syncing at Obama’s inaugeration

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Most Anticipated of 2013: SOLANGE

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Solange Knowles has had a couple of guises over the years and despite being younger sister to one of the most successful ladies in R’n’B/Music history (hint: Beyoncé Knowles) she is far from playing second fiddle.

Describing herself as singer, song writer, dancer, DJ and model it’s not as though she’s been resting on her laurels – she is a busy lady. What is even more interesting is that she’s been working with meek production prince Devonte Hynes – a man who has had various incarnations; initially in Test Icicles, then in Lightspeed Champion and now in his current form he goes by Blood Orange. (Find all of these here on rara.com).

Basically him and Pharrel have teamed up and dream teamed the production. It sounds sugary, sentimental, heartbroken, funky, early 90’s late 80’s infused pop with Prince leanings and given a sheen of style by Dev Hynes’s refined yet bombastic dress sense.

Her album ‘TRUE’ will come out this year and it will funk you up. & big up Dev Hynes too, that guy is great and I wish him every bit of success he deserves (a lot) in 2013.

Check her out here on rara.com

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5 Things You Need To Know Today

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Oh, music news.There sure is a lot of you, buddy. Let’s break it down. Just click the link for the full story.

1) Marilyn Manson is suing a woman who claimed to be engaged to him

Shock-rock creepy-guy Marilyn Manson is accusing musician and occult film maker Yolanda Tharpe of over 5 claims of defamation, misappropriation of common law right of publicity, unlawful use of Manson’s name for commercial advantage, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress with the shock rocker seeking £30,000 in compensation.

Tharpe is accusing Manson of being responsible for the death of two of her cats.

2) Lana Del Ray is rumoured to have started recording for her second album
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3) The Smashing Pumpkins have announced a UK tour for 2013
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4) Daft Punk are NOT going to play Glastonbury this year
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5) The Strokes have named their new album ‘Comedown Machine’…?
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Most Anticipated of 2013: The Knife

Most Anticipated 2013THE KNIFE

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The Knife have announced their first album in 7 years will be released April 5th of this year. Hints of what the album is going to sound like have been posted around the web for the past week or so – click on the link below to listen to the new single, titled ‘Full Of Fire’ (video directed by Marit Östberg).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoH6k6eIUS4

Fever Ray (singer Karin Dreijer Andersson’s solo project) was one of the most electrifying artists of 2009 both live and on record – will The Knife live up to the same hype?

We certainly think so.

Have a listen to our playlist of Most Anticipated of 2013 here

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5 Things You Need To Know Today

Good Morning

Another day, another flood of musical information – we’ll refine it to 5 points for you.

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1) Chris Brown and Frank Ocean have bust-up, Ocean to press charges.

Chris Brown & Frank Ocean have been clashing on a minor scale for a little while, first coming to light when Chris’s cousins chased down Frank in his car.

Now there has been some alleged fisticuffs outside of LA’s Westlake Studios and Frank Ocean is pressing charges.

This could become interesting for two reasons:

– Brown and Ocean are nominated in the Best Urban Contemporary Album category at the Grammy Awards.
– If Brown is found guilty, he risks having his five-year probation revoked for his assault on Rihanna in 2009.

(sources: Stool Pigeon, Line of Best Fit)

2) Fleetwood Mac set to tour the UK

“The band are due to embark on a world tour from April of this year, with US dates already in place. However, there are yet to be concrete plans for any shows in the UK announced. Speaking to BBC 6Music, Fleetwood confirmed that the group are heading across the Atlantic, most likely in September or October. “We’re doing a big world tour that starts in April. We’re coming here [the UK] in September, October and maybe a bit longer. We’re doing a lot of work here so we are coming,” he said.” (source: NME)

3) Wavves release new track to stream and reveal up-coming ‘Afraid of Heights’ album art-work.

Along with a whole bunch of tour dates. Follow the link above for more details on that.

(via FACT, Pitchfork)

4) Radiohead request help from Cheryl Cole through The Daily Mail

Strange.

(Via Drowned in Sound, The Daily Mail)

5) Rick Ross was the target of a drive-by shooting this morning.

Adding more gravitas to the suggestion that it might be wise if he takes a year off. Take it easy Rozay, you’re still the boss (of our hearts).

(Source: Pitchfork)

5 Things You Need To Know Today

Daft-Punk-A-Visual-HIstory1) Daft Punk to release an album in May for first time in 8 years.

Daft Punk have left their long-standing label partners EMI/Virgin and have moved to Colombia Records – more importantly they are going to release an album in 2013. Rumoured collaborations (via The Guardian) with a pretty steamy roster of artists such as Chilly Gonzales, Oscar-winning songwriter Paul Williams, Panda Bear from Animal Collective and Giorgio Moroder.

2) Sigur Ros are going to release an album this year

Yes, more hyperbole than we can really handle this morning. Icelandic atmos-legends are going to release an album this year – you can check out one of their singles from it here:

http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/

3) Black Flag are going to re-form.. twice. With different members. But Henry Rollins is not going to be involved.

4) The Dirty Projectors covered Usher’s ‘Climax’ and it was … really, really great.

Find it here.

5) British Sea Power have announced that they are going to release an album and tour the UK this year.

All in all, it’s been an incredibly busy.. 3 hours.

See you tomorrow.

(The image is the property of Agent Raybans, a member of the Daft Punk fan-club.)

rara celebrates 1 year anniversary

rara and Omnifone celebrate 1-year anniversary - Metropolis Studios, London - January 2013

rara and Omnifone celebrate 1-year anniversary – Metropolis Studios, London – January 2013

Last Thursday (17th January) rara celebrated our one-year anniversary (slightly belatedly, but we have been a little bit busy!) with our friends from Omnifone. Everyone at Omnifone has worked incredibly hard on the back-end of the service, making sure that rara.com is the best music service in the world.

rara’s CEO Nick Massey and Omnifone’s CEO Jeff Hughes presented one other gold discs as a thank you for the last year’s hard work. Jeff said “rara is a great product that Omnifone has supported since its birth and we’re really proud of what rara has achieved. Over the last few months it’s really started to gain momentum”.

Nick Massey had glowing words for Omnifone and thanked everybody at the company for their hard work over the past two years, saying “We’ve come from an idea to the market-place in just two years, which is absolutely awesome. We’ve only been able to do that because of Omnifone. We’re looking at a bright future with more partners, more markets and taking risks with innovative features. The rara and Omnifone teams are a winning combination which will make this work.”

Nick and Jeff pose with their gold discs

Nick and Jeff pose with their gold discs

The party was held at the amazing Metropolis Studios in Chiswick, where many major artists including The Libertines, Lauren Hill, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, and Rihanna, have recorded their hits. We took a tour of the recording studios before the party and had to fight the impulse to play with the thousands of dials…

What a great way to blow off the January blues and kick off a great 2013 – we’ll have many more reasons to celebrate soon!

Everyone loves to win!

Everyone loves to win!

Dr. Jack’s Musical Mood Boosters – Beat the January Blues with rara.com!

 Dr Jack Lewis

Hi there, welcome to round two of my scientific studies in music and the brain with rara.com. It’s certainly been an interesting week – I’ve been looking into how we can actually use music to beat the January blues and feel happier. Coupled with a cup of tea and perhaps a slice of cake it’s a sure-fire way to keep a smile on your face.

We all know that January can be dull and depressing. Days are short, nights are long, and festive cheer has long gone– making us feel lethargic and low.

To beat the blues I recommend listening to music.

It’s been proven that particular musical styles have the power to stimulate every brain area involved in generating emotion. This can activate pleasure pathways to produce a natural ‘high’, much like that created by good food and sex. Some songs just feel inherently ‘happy’.

My research into this field of neuroscience, music and mood has led me to indentify five key musical triggers that can help anyone feel happier, which I’ve used to compile the ultimate mood-boosting playlist. The playlist features an eclectic and unexpected range of artists from Robert Johnson, to The Beach Boys, and even Daft Punk and as with my previous ‘ergogenic’ playlist, it’s available for free on rara.com with the promo code HOLIDAY2012.

Here are my five top findings

1) Keep it simple with predictable, punchy songs – like early blues music.

Even though it is typically seen as a ‘sad’ genre, early blues has all hallmarks of music that can make you smile. ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ by undisputed King of the Blues, B.B. King is a good example. The simple, stripped-down style of his music with a punchy yet predictable brass and percussion rhythm get the brain’s reward pathways firing, whilst his unparalleled string-bending and vibrato technique made the guitar sing with an emotional, vocal quality sure to get the limbic system cranked up.

2) Connect with singers on an emotional level – try “a capella” tracks

Music is so ingrained into humans that it doesn’t need instruments to have an effect on us. When we hear emotion in a human voice our brains are tuned re-create some of this emotion within. This is fundamental to empathy. The harmonisation between several voices will activate the reward pathways, and can make you feel on top of the world. Indie rockers The Futureheads have produced an entirely “a cappella” album, “Rant”; it’s available on rara.com and highly recommended to get the brain tapping!

3) Revisit music from ‘moments of bliss’ to recreate that positive state of mind

Any song that reminds you of a time when you were blissfully happy has the power to put you right back in that particular emotional state of mind. One fMRI study specifically investigating how music triggers this kind of nostalgia identified a brain region which was activated both by events in the musical extract and the strength of the memories conjured up by that tune. Perhaps it’s music from an unforgettable summer music festival, your Wedding Day, or the opening track of a set from your favourite concert back in your younger days.

4) Music that gets your heart pumping and skin tingling casts your fears away

Any music that gets your heart pumping and your skin tingling – like the thrilling climax of Tchaicovsky’s 1812 Overture– can enable the brain to cast worries away. Such music does this by causing deactivation of the brain area that orchestrates the fear response – the amygdala – making us feel less anxious.

5) The ‘tight trousers’ factor:  high-pitched vocals create an instant mood boost

Singers often communicate the ‘happy’ emotion using the upper register of their voices and when this happiness rubs off on us, premotor brain areas that control our vocal muscles automatically become more active – which is why you can find yourself singing or humming along without even realising. Other songs in this vocal style include Mika ‘Grace Kelly’, Scissor Sisters ‘Comfortably Numb’ and most of Prince’s output to date!

This brings me to the end of my blog post and the end of my research into music and the brain (for now). I’ve really enjoyed this piece and have certainly learned a lot – I hope you have too.

Dr. Jack

How music can help keep those New Years fitness resolutions

drjacklewis

Salutations, I’m neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis. I’ve always been fascinated by how our brains work and have spent a lifetime learning all I can about them. Working with rara.com over the past few months I’ve discovered a musical formula to benefit you before, during and after your work out.

rara.com wanted to create the most perfect workout playlist to ensure you stick to your 2013 fitness resolutions; tireless research into the relationship between music, the brain and the body enabled me to compile the optimum playlist – The Ergogenic Fitness Playlist can now be found up on rara.com so use the promo code HOLIDAY2012 to sign up for free, for 7 days.

It’s a common assumption that fast-paced dance music makes for the best workout music, however other factors can prove crucial in readying the brain for exercise, and maintaining focus during a workout session.  Classical music, for example, can help you to take advantage of the twin benefits of:

  • the psychologically-motivating impact of upbeat music that results in increased strength, speed and endurance, and
  • the physiologically-relaxing influence resulting in reduced heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol that the classical genre seems to induce.

I’d recommend Beethoven’s Symphony No 4, 4th Movement but, heck, you can find other invigorating classical pieces on rara.com.

Even if classical is not your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to hear that to reduce the perceived exertion associated with any moderately-intensive workout it seems that upbeat music from any genre will do just fine!

My survey of all the latest research also led me to discover that listening to upbeat music – around 120-130 bpm – gets your brain into a highly aroused state even before you’ve laced up your trainers (thus initiating a more focused and successful work out).
The most likely reason for this is that music at this tempo or above stimulates the Reticular Activating System, the part of the brain that increases alertness and prepares the body and brain for action. Technologic by Daft Punk (128 bpm) would obviously be a great choice here.

Memory is a beautiful thing and studies have shown that subjects who were played songs that were of personal significance to them, benefited more when exercising, than those who were played songs they didn’t know or particularly enjoy. The premotor cortex, an area of the brain that stores all the plans for complex sequences of movements, is stimulated most by the music that is deemed beautiful to the person’s own ear. So, when compiling your own Ergogenic playlist, it’s important to try and choose songs that mean something to you personally – ones that remind you of something motivational or inspiring. Maybe a song from a favourite film or a track that reminds you of a great holiday with friends.

Another interesting tip when it comes to building your work out play list – it’s important to match your tunes to your desired heart rate. Musical beats robustly stimulate an area of the brain called the basal ganglia.  Not only is this area fundamentally involved in initiating movements, but recent research has demonstrated that it also increases cross-talk between brain areas responsible for creating the music you hear from the sounds that reach your ear and instigate the sequence of muscle contractions that result in your movement. This may well be why we have a natural tendency to match the energy of our movements to the beat. For beginners just getting into fitness, music of a moderate intensity, around 125-140 bpm, would be most effective. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People is in this range. However more experienced trainers or athletes will need to step this up; 162-168 bpm seems to be optimal for them. Hey Ya by Outkast would be an effective choice. Either way make sure you switch from the slower tempo tracks early on in your playlist, to gradually faster tempo tracks later on, as there is good evidence out there in the literature that this will help you get more out of your workouts.

My last interesting fact for you music (and hopefully soon, fitness) lovers – pumping music like the kind played in aerobics classes or circuit training has been shown to be especially effective for ladies. In tests, women were actually able to perform more repetitions in a medley of different exercises relative to men when motivational music was playing.

I’d love to hear what you think. Post your thoughts on the rara Facebook page (www.facebook.com/rara.com).

Thanks and good luck with your January resolutions, whatever they may be.

Jack Lewis (Ph.D.)