rara chats with: Jenny Lewis


With the release of Jenny Lewis’ highly anticipated third solo album, The Voyager, out this week; we thought we’d catch up with the Las Vegas songwriter to see what she’s been listening to this month.

1)   The War on Drugs – Red Eyes

Philly represent! Represent! My dad was from Philadelphia. He learned how to play music on a wax harmonica.

2)   Angel Olsen – Acrobat

Angel has the most beautiful voice. She reminds me of Karen Dalton, with short bangs.

3)   Beat Happening – Our Secret

We covered this on the postal service tour, I played the drums on this cut to 15,000 people in Brooklyn! What were Jimmy and Ben thinking, letting me do that?

4)   Bob Marley and the Wailers – Mellow Mood

This is from an amazing comp of early recordings and demos called Fiyah Fiyah. You know what to do to get yourself in a mellow mood, don’t ya?

5)   Brandy and Monica – The Boy is Mine  

This is one of my favourite songs of all time! I’d love to do a cover of it with dee dee penny of the dum dum girls. But who would sing which part?

6)   Califone – On the Steeple with the Shakes (Xmas Tigers)

I love this dude. I love his production and who doesn’t want an Xmas tiger?

7)  Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians – What I Am

Yep, I still love this song! And the entire record.

8)   Eleanor Friedberger – Inn of the Seventh Ray

I think Eleanor told me that someone suggested she write a song about this infamous Topanga canyon hippie restaurant. Well, done Eleanor and the hummous is delicious, too…

9)   Sharon Van Etten – Every Time the Sun Comes Up    

Ah, Sharon. Her voice is like the peach melba desert from my favourite restaurant Antoine’s in New Orleans

10)   The Felice Brothers – Wonderful Life    

This song makes someone I know cry…isn’t it a wonderful life?

11)   Parquet Courts – Stoned and Starving    

I can’t at all relate to this sentiment

12)   Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E’s in Love

This song is about Chuck E Weiss! Look him up!

Head over to rara now to listen to Jenny Lewis’ playlist.


How music can help keep those New Years fitness resolutions


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.)