Socks Appeal

Trust us, their feet look fabulous: These Modern Socks
Nathan Grumdahl

These Modern Socks
These Modern Socks

Corey Palmer knows a little something about working in today's music industry. "I'm what you call a content monkey," he says. When not playing in These Modern Socks, he works for the nation's only salaried ring-tone producers.

"I just had to record the music for a Valentine's Day e-card today," he says, pausing to take a gulp of tepid liquid at the south Minneapolis coffee shop Caffetto. "I felt like I was literally selling my soul to Satan when I recorded my voice."

The professionalism he brings to the audio department of that major corporation can be heard on These Modern Socks' self-titled album, on which he recorded all the instruments in a spare bedroom using digital software. "Not a 4-track," he clarifies. "Four-tracks are the artistic choice now. I used a computer."

Seemingly created for quarter-life crisis sufferers who have emerged from their medicated fog and realized they're all grown up, These Modern Socks examines the demons of self-doubt via funky Casio tones and a drippy teen idol vocal style. With its finely tuned melodies and ability to tell a story, the record stands up in the CD disc changer against established acts like Son Volt and the Postal Service. It's groove-worthy but sophisticated, delighting the speakers with a healthy range of soft piano ballads and cathartic rants. Meanwhile, the haunting echoes of children playing in some vacant lot add atmospheric effect. Throughout the album, Palmer makes good use of his hypnotic tenor. On "Someone I Don't Know," he goes from bitching out a succubus to apologizing sweetly for his social ineptness. At only 36 minutes, the disc leaves the listener hanging, craving more synthesized beats and intoxicating piano compositions.

Palmer owes his interest in music to parents who were in bands for 30 years. Recalling an almost bohemian upbringing, he smiles nostalgically. "My father had a band and my mother joined it after they had been dating in high school," he says, his shaggy brown mop hanging over puppy-dog eyes. "I remember being six years old and sitting in a booth in the back of a crusty bar watching my father play guitar."

Not surprisingly, Corey isn't the only musical offspring in the Palmer family. "My 18-year-old brother is recording, too," Palmer says. "His stuff is more akin to Nine Inch Nails. He'll surpass me in a couple of weeks."

Though genetics may explain his musical tendencies, it's his solid work ethic that keeps him buckled down with ambitions to record another Socks album, which he hopes will be completed by spring. This time he wants to have his beloved bandmates involved, instead of the one-man-band approach he took on the first album. The lineup will include J.T. Bates, a jazz drummer who plays in Fat Kid Wednesdays and whom Palmer calls "an excellent bargain shopper," bassist Arron Bergstrom, who can also be heard in the Steely Dan cover band Steeling Dan, and keyboardist Nick Tveitbakk. Palmer met this last member while recording with Daykit, his other, heavier band.

"These Modern Socks came about as an outlet for me to do a different writing style, more ballads, less loud," he says. "I like having that outlet. It's easier because I write all the songs instead of the group writing style that Daykit employs."

"I just want to put out a good record," he adds, "and if I can connect with one or two people, that's cool. There's only five or six albums that touch you in a year, and if my record can be one of those, I'm happy."

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