Your browser does not support our new site design, so some things might not display or function properly.
We suggest upgrading to Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 9+ for the optimal experience.

Business Casual

Business Casual (2019)

5.0

October 11, 2019

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 5.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.7
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.7
Tracks
1 No Diggity 4.7
2 Ain't No Way 4.7
3 Lean On Me 5.0
4 La Vie en Rose 4.7
5 Yo Vivire (I Will Survive) 5.0
6 Faith 4.7
7 Ain't No Rest for the Wicked 4.7
8 Stay With You 4.7

Recorded 2018 – 2019
Total time: 25:12, 8 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 No Diggity 4
2 Ain't No Way 5
3 Lean On Me 5
4 La Vie en Rose 4
5 Yo Vivire (I Will Survive) 5
6 Faith 5
7 Ain't No Rest for the Wicked 5
8 Stay With You 4

San Francisco's Business Casual is already at the top of its game, winning VoiceJam 2019 and Harmony Sweepstakes 2018. So why not add an incredibly impressive album to the group's resume, the first full-length release for this powerhouse quintet. 

Each measure of Business Casual feels thoughtfully designed for maximum impact, and I can't recall the last time I've heard a release with this much sustained creative energy. The big swing vibe of No Diggity keeps listeners leaning forward with its ever-changing tempos and percussion patterns, setting us up for an album that continually defies expectations. Still, how do you prepare for Ain't No Way, an original jazz-pop piece composed, arranged, and soloed by Business Casual's Cassandra Chamoun? This celebration of female independence is contagiously inspirational and sounds absolutely glorious in Ed Boyer's mix. If this is the kind of after-work party Business Casual throws, who needs another office potluck anyway.  

Ready to hear what Business Casual can do to an old standby like Lean On Me? Trust me, you're not ready. After a simple, hand-snap opening befit of the song's roots, the arrangement transitions to the kind of gospel where you can picture the singers wearing bright robes and throwing their hands to the sky. The drums take on a nearly tribal beat, where music is an authentic expression and joy is the only feeling allowed. I'm shocked that a vintage tune can sound so danged fresh — a sonic sentiment often returned to on Business Casual in large part thanks to percussionist Michael Wang laying out sizzling rhythms and make-'em-go-wild showman effects. It's impossible to be bored with this much going on, and going right. Enjoy his calypso-flavored beats on La Vie en Rose, too.

Also, in what world is I Will Survive still the hit of the day? In an album where every track is memorable, Business Casual manages to make this karaoke classic the best number in its line-up, and I remain dumbfounded about this power. The Spanish singing absolutely pops off the soundscape under Chamoun's skillful vocals, perfectly articulated for flash and color against the backgrounds. And the razor-sharp harmonies and tight transitions will raise the hair on your arms. This piece has eleven original composers listed in Business Casual's credits, demonstrating just how deeply and how widely these musicians will search for the best inspiration to craft their particular offering, always showcasing their own particular strengths. 

How about the production? Why does this music sound so much bigger and crisper than what's possible? Faith amplifies this clarity beautifully, featuring work by Bri Holland, Ted Trembinski, and Bill Hare. If the group put in its very best work crafting and performing the music, the many behind-the-scenes musicians producing the sound here matched these visionaries perfectly. 

As if we haven't been treated to enough, how about a slinky jazz club hit with Ain't No Rest for the Wicked, with playful tempos, the best danged a cappella horns I've ever heard recorded, a jaw-dropping drum kit, and even a perfect kickline ending, because why not? It's all seemingly easy for Business Casual, who thoughtfully brings us back down with a softer and cozier Stay With You to close this collection.

The only miss here is the self-titled album. Future ideas include: Chords Are Just Suggestions, Percussion Panacea, and Too Clever for You. Keep kicking it on top, Business Casual! You're absolutely the colorful light to follow right now. 


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 No Diggity 5
2 Ain't No Way 5
3 Lean On Me 5
4 La Vie en Rose 5
5 Yo Vivire (I Will Survive) 5
6 Faith 5
7 Ain't No Rest for the Wicked 5
8 Stay With You 5

GO GO GO! Go listen to this album. Brilliant front to back. Every instant is scintillating with intensity, ingenuity, and intention. Business Casual doesn't waste a single beat rollicking in the joy of a cappella, and neither should you. Let's go!

PAUSE. Deep breath. I should mention Business Casual is a professional five-piece vocal band based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group has been performing since 2012 and released an EP in 2014; this self-titled album is the group's first full-length feature. The style is upbeat, primarily jazz and pop, with some definite influence from soul and R&B. It's a smart fusion of classic sensibilities and modern pizzazz, slightly geared toward Millennials but with a sound that can easily span generations. RESUME.

These arrangements are so cool. You never feel like you are waiting for the "good" part of the song, because every part is edge-of-your-seat awesome. My favorite example is Ain't No Rest for the Wicked. It starts with a walking bass (think Fever). Enter the fiery solo and background accents. It builds to a full "band", then slips right into a trumpet trio (did I mention how brass Business Casual is with their lip trumpets?). Suddenly we're in a chaotic dance trance, and we come out on the other end with a Broadway finale. HOORAY! For more dramatic feel changes, visit Lean On Me, La Vie en Rose, and Yo Vivire (I Will Survive).

The singers fill each arrangement with life. Jacob Chamoun on bass and Michael Wang on vocal percussion make an awesome powerhouse rhythm section that drives each arrangement forward with full-body resonance and head-spinning sound effects. For the most stunning exhibit, check out No Diggity at the 1:45 mark. Roshun Alur and Cassandra Chamoun are flyin' on most of the leads, and Leslie Baker is every bit as captivating when she comes forward on Faith and Ain't No Rest for the Wicked. And that's everyone! Hard to believe, but with just five performers Business Casual is able to pack each recording with the melodic interplay and robust dynamics of an entire choir.

Bill Hare glues it all together in post production. By dampening a lot of frequencies in background vocals, Hare makes room for the drum, bass, and solo. This technique makes the album sound more hollow, but also more dynamic than a lot of contemporary recordings. In contrast, Ain't No Way (the one track mixed by Ed Boyer), is a more thick mix that pushes all the background excitement front and center. Boyer's treatment works well for Ain't No Way, and could work for some of the other poppy tracks, but Hare's strategy is generally better for the amount of auxiliary parts in Business Casual's arrangements. That's the closest thing to a complaint I have. The amount of attention paid to the details of EQing, panning, and spatial effects to make everything come together just so boggles the mind.

Usually when I award an album a 5, it is because there is a particularly high concentration of smart song choices, creative arrangements, production decisions, and talented vocalists. In very rare cases, an album gets a 5 because RARB won't let me give it a 6, and I am so engrossed that I feel compelled to share it with anybody who has even a passing interest in what vibrations come in the vicinity of their eardrums. Business Casual is one such 5.

One last comment: the liner notes are impeccable. I especially appreciate how credit is given to both the composers of songs and to the covers from which arrangements are derived. Front to back, Business Casual is brilliant.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 No Diggity 5
2 Ain't No Way 4
3 Lean On Me 5
4 La Vie en Rose 5
5 Yo Vivire (I Will Survive) 5
6 Faith 4
7 Ain't No Rest for the Wicked 4
8 Stay With You 5

Business Casual achieves a rare feat of being immensely gutsy and delivering a flawless vocal performance. While both of these elements individually are common in contemporary a cappella, few groups have succeeded in offering an album that marries the two so brilliantly. In terms of projects released this year, Business Casual deserves to be in the conversation as one of the year's best!

As Business Casual's first full-length album, this self-titled project does a nearly perfect job of hitting every note. It's executed with flavor and personality, differentiating itself from the likes of other vocal group releases. For starters, nearly every track is known to the general public, and yet each one feels like a fresh reinterpretation that works to solidify itself as a Business Casual original. Yo Vivire (I Will Survive) is a funky, fiery dance track that possesses a flashy Latin flair with its energized percussion and passionate vocal lines. It all fuses beautifully, ultimately culminating into a larger than life mashup with Vivir Mi Vida. While Business Casual may have a 5-person roster, this track hypnotizes you into thinking that many more voices are present. 

Similar sentiments can be said about Lean On Me. The arrangement is full of life and personality as Business Casual draws out every ounce of soul from the song by giving it a heavy, African-influenced revamping with a hard-hitting, creative rhythm section and dynamic backing group who is capable of riffing till the cows come home!

But it's not just the obvious that makes Business Casual so wonderful; it's also the intangibles.

The risks that Business Casual chooses to take to bring its music and imagination to life are astonishing. The album's opener No Diggity is filled to the brim with many fun and engaging factors that you wouldn't expect. The old-timey radio announcer effect for the intro is absolute gold. The style switch to the big band sound, including hints of Friend Like Me is genius. The coolness factor of the track is off the charts while the singing stays top notch.

The inclusion of La Vie en Rose is another risk that pays off in dividends for Business Casual. The group's French diction is phenomenal and heartwarming, giving listeners an unexpected but joyful respite from the album's other offerings. The harmonies are simply lovely, and the party vibe creates an emotional connection that will fill you with bliss. And each and every time Business Causal presents a vocal horn section, it is a true musical treat. The one featured on this track as well as on Ain't No Rest for the Wicked are to die for.

Business Casual is full of substance, vocal and dynamic range, and sheer originality. There's a complexity and understanding of how to literally use the voice as an instrument that Business Casual effortlessly translates into an 8-track album. And when it's all said and done, it's some of the best vocal music your ears have ever been exposed to.

Advertisement

How To Get Your Work Reviewed

To have your album (2 or more tracks) reviewed by RARB, please email us with your name, group name and album title. You will receive a response with information on how to register your album in our system.

To have your digital single reviewed by RARB, please fill out our online singles registration form.

×

Ordering Information

Business Casual streams on Spotify


×