Williamsburg, Brooklyn has become synonymous with hipster culture, so it’s no surprise that a covers album featuring a lineup of tracks with serious indie cred would originate in the neighborhood. Somewhat more surprising? That those covers would come from an 11-piece salsa band. The self-titled debut album from the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra adds some Latin flair to tracks from indie staples including Peter Bjorn and John, TV on the Radio, and LCD Soundsystem.
It’s apparent from the get-go that the WSO is a talented group of salsa musicians. Bandleader Gianni Mano leads the ensemble through the album’s ten peppy tracks with precision and energy. However, the combination of salsa and indie is rather hit or miss, with the up-tempo excitement of the orchestra sometimes overshadowing the content of the song being covered. Blaring horns, timbales, and bongos make for a fun cover of an upbeat track like Peter Bjorn and John‘s “Young Folks,” but can feel overwhelming in quieter moments. Similarly, Solange Prat’s vocals have a very polished, almost Broadway quality that meshes well with the salsa backing but lacks the emotional subtlety needed to get the most out of softer tracks or lyrics originally voiced by less traditional singers.