after putting out three synthesizer-free albums, the magnetic fields return to the signature mix of synth and acoustic sounds they established in the 90s with releases such as 'the charm of the highway strip' and 'get lost'. stephin merritt has come back to synths with a fresh approach: "most of the synthesizers on the record didn't exist when we were last using synthesizers," he notes. the songs - none over three minutes long - were recorded in los angeles, san francisco and new york with merritt's usual cast of collaborators: claudia gonson, sam davol, john woo, shirley simms, johny blood and daniel handler. the magnetic fields' debut album 'distant plastic trees' was released in 1991. in 1999, the magnetic fields' three-cd collection, '69 love songs', established stephin merritt as one of his generation's most talented songwriters. that breakthrough was followed by the albums: 'i' in 2004, 'distortion' in 2008 and 'realism' in 2010. between magnetic fields releases, merritt has recorded side projects and albums with his various other bands, future bible heroes, the gothic archies and the 6ths, as well as soundtracks to the films eban and charley and pieces of april. in 2006, merritt also released a collection of songs written under the name the gothic archies to accompany the lemony snicket books, the tragic treasury: songs from a series of unfortunate events. in 2009, merritt scored the off-broadway adaptation of neil gaiman's novel coraline. domino released 'obscurities', a collection of stephin merritt's previously hard-to-find early recordings in 2011.