Indie Anthology: The Shins release their landmark debut in 2001

Image: Marisa Kula Mercer

The Shins released their debut record Oh, Inverted World to immediate critical acclaim on June 19, 2001. The album’s lead single “New Slang” helped build considerable buzz ahead of its official release. The song would later propel the James Mercer-led outfit to a new level of stardom after it was featured prominently in the 2004 Zach Braff film Garden State.

The Shins are currently touring in support of Oh, Inverted World‘s 21st anniversary, with a Toronto date set for Tuesday, August 30 at Massey Hall. Let’s look back at the the debut effort from Albuquerque, New Mexico’s most-heralded indie outfit.

This Indie88 feature is presented with Sawdust City Brewing Co.

Oh, Inverted World‘s arrival as a reissue in 2021 was not a simple process. Mercer was a victim of theft in 2003, which included the loss of master audio files that he had kept stored on a home computer. Thankfully, digital audio tapes of the recordings were also maintained by the company that mastered the original recordings.

The record was reissued on June 11, 2021, remastered by Bob Ludwig.

The Shins’ follow-up record, Chutes Too Narrow, was released in 2003 and was met with more critical acclaim.

Indie Anthology airs Monday-Friday on Indie88, featuring hits and hidden gems of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. 

While The Shins found considerable success on the strength of their first two records, a conversation around the band’s popularity must include a nod to Garden State. The film, which Braff wrote, directed, and starred in alongside Natalie Portman, earned a Grammy Award for its widely popular soundtrack.

“You don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, or have that label attached to your name, I suppose,” Mercer told the Dallas Observer in an interview. “There’s a worry that maybe you’re somehow missing the mark of being able to reproduce your early success. But back then, when the movie came out, I was excited, and now I’m just in the space where I’m thankful that it happened.”

Big success on the indie/alternative scene often leads to big expectations from new and old fans alike. The Shins’ third full-length Wincing The Night Away was released in 2007, three years after the band’s Garden State bump. While it was met with a largely positive critical response, Mercer began to notice a shift in The Shins fandom.

“When you get big early in your career, the hipsters who liked you before all that don’t like you anymore,” Mercer said. “They think you’ve jumped the shark. It’s a strange feeling because you feel like you’ve lost a certain part of the audience that was critical to your success before. We were successful, but we weren’t getting the buzz kind of talk anymore, and we were too big for the hipsters. It’s a funny situation.”


Five full-length albums, a live record, and a remix album, The Shins remain one of the early 2000s greatest indie/alternative acts. Catch The Shins performing their landmark debut Oh, Inverted World live in Toronto at Massey Hall.

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