Beirut mastermind Zach Condon has been no stranger to the indie press since the release of his surprise smash 'Gulag Orkestar' last year, which appeared out of nowhere and captured our hearts, coming high in almost everyone's end of year charts. After touring extensively (to the point of exhaustion) Condon retreated to his home in New Mexico to regroup and use his new experiences to conjure up a record every bit as exhilarating as his debut. 'The Flying Club Cup' is a grandiose affair from start to finish, lavished with epic string arrangements (from none other than Final Fantasy/Arcade Fire man Owen Pallet), accordions, bells and of course Condon's distinctive vocals. Those of you who caught the limited edition 7" single will know the direction, but not the scope of this hugely ambitious album. A widescreen depiction of melancholy, of unrequited love and soft focus liaisons in Parisian coffee shops and cobbled streets, this is an album for the thinker and the lover, for the reader and the listener and sans the youthful optimism and excitement of 'Gulag Orkestar' we end up sinking deep into Condon's thoughtful poetry. Take 'Forks and Knives (La Fete)' for example with its pretty theatrics and initially upbeat sentiment which slowly, like all the best romantic songs, takes you through a spectrum of emotion with choirs, plucked strings and clattering percussion. Condon's willingness to express himself instrumentally and vocally has moved on leaps and bounds, finding him mixing his vocals daringly high and making use of all sorts of glorious instruments to sound as expansive as a professionally commissioned European movie soundtrack with tens of trained music-school graduates on hand. On 'Un Dernier Verre (Pour La Route)' for example what starts as a touching piano-led café/bar reflection ends up with broadly daubed strokes of orchestral magnificence and revels in a fragile pomposity. What 'The Flying Club Cup' manages to evoke (at least for me) is the final hours of a heady European carnival, as the alcohol takes its toll and daylight starts to creep through the night sky. Fittingly, the album draws to a close on the magnificent title track, rounding off a record you'll find yourself returning to again and again. Absolutely glorious, and totally essential.