New Music : August 2015

This month I largely listened to my vinyl collection, including about a week where I had Jim O’Rourke’s Simple Songs on loop. I also (re)discovered Jethro Tull’s Passion Play (both on vinyl and the Steven Wilson remastered version), and have had a bit of a New Pornographers/Sea and Cake binge. As a result, I listened to very little music that was actually released this month until the last few days of the month, after which time things went back to normal.

Mac Demarco – Another One
Georgia – Georgia
Paul Smith and the Intimations – Contradictions
The Phoenix Foundation – Give up Your Dreams
Pere Ubu – The Pere Ubu Moon Unit (not on Spotify playlist)
Drinks – Hermits on Holiday
Frog Eyes – Pickpocket’s Locket
Tempel – The Moon Lit Our Path
Destroyer – Poison Season
The Bohicas – The Making Of
C. Duncan – Architect
Eleventh Dream Day – Works for Tomorrow
Toro Y Moi – Samantha (not on Spotify playlist, but available for free)

Georgia’s debut album was a bit of a bolt out of the blue. I’d not heard of her until I received the album through the post from Rough Trade, but it is pleasantly different to most of what I listen to, and very much a record for 2015.

Destroyer, Mac Demarco, Paul Smith, Eleventh Dream Day and Frog Eyes are safe bets for me. I own record by all five artists already, and between them they nicely cater for my need for interesting and intelligent song-based music. All of these records may very well be career highlights, and I’m particularly pleased that Poison Season doesn’t disappoint after the very high benchmark of Kaputt.

C. Duncan, Drinks, Tempel and The Phoenix Foundation I’d not heard of until this month, but are well worth a listen. Tempel remind me a bit of Pelican, who feature heavily in my Post Rock Classics playlist.

And then there is Pere Ubu. They are another band I own a lot of music by, and (very much like The Fall) I always try and listen to everything they put out. This one is a very short live (I think) record, but it’s interesting for fans (and probably not that interesting to anyone else). As an aside, I also picked up their Cloudland on vinyl for for a lot of money, and have been remembering listening to Waiting for Mary when it first came out (1989?) and thinking it was one of the best songs ever written. It’s not, but it still brings back fond memories of summer and childhood and the period of time where I was starting to discover more alternative music.

Converting documents using Pandoc

I’ve recently found myself needing to do a lot of document conversion, and maintaining documentation that needs to be available in a variety of formats (HTML, Word documents, Markdown and PDF). My tool of choice for this sort of thing is Pandoc, which is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, although most of my usage so far has been on Linux (it’s a command line package that outputs to Dropbox, so it doesn’t matter where it runs really).

There are instructions for installing Pandoc on quite a few platforms. I’ve found that following these is generally enough, although it’s worth installing the latest version of the .deb packages rather than the one in the Debian repositories which does odd things to some of my html.

On Debian/Ubuntu I also add the texlive-latex-extra package, but that’s largely because it gives me a specific Beamer theme I like to use.

If you’re using Pandoc on Mac OS X there is one more command you’ll need to issue prior to the first time you want to create a PDF file:

sudo ln -s /Library/TeX/texbin/pdflatex /usr/local/bin/

This will ensure Pandoc knows where to find pdflatex. If this step isn’t followed then you’ll likely get an error message along the lines of pandoc: pdflatex not found. pdflatex is needed for pdf output.

Pandoc works for me because I write everything in markdown, and Pandoc is great at taking markdown and converting it into almost anything else. The syntax is fairly simple for most document types:

For example:

pandoc input.md -s -o output.docx
pandoc input.md -s -o output.html
pandoc input.md -s -o output.epub

Conversion to PDF works the same, although I’m not a fan of wide margins, so I tweak it slightly:

pandoc -V geometry:margin=1in input.md -s -o output.pdf

For a Beamer slide show you’ll need something like:

pandoc -t beamer input.md -V theme:metropolis -o output.pdf

Pandoc does a lot more, but the documentation is great, and the commands above should be enough to get you started.