It takes a special kind of band to make high-cut polyester pants and ruffled tuxedo shirts seem cool, but Chicano Batman has been pulling this off and making it look easy since their 2010 debut album. Its cover is emblazoned with their iconic Aztec eagle Batman symbol. Born out of East Los Angeles’ rich music scene, it’s hard to pin the quartet down to one specific genre. Part-Brazilian Tropicália, part-psychedelic soul, along with some cumbia and a dash of Jackie Davis, just to name a few, Chicano Batman has created their own unique sound and style. Although not all members of the group are Chicano (drummer Gabriel Villa is from Colombia), a huge part of being Chicanx means claiming your roots while moving forward and forging a community out of a cultural crossroads that is often difficult to navigate. I think it’s safe to say this is something most of us have experienced, and this album is a much-needed touch of warmth during dark times.
Freedom is Free is Chicano Batman’s third album, following their 2010 self-titled debut and 2014’s Cycles of Existential Rhyme. The vocals are more prominent on this album than they have been in the past, allowing the lyrics to come to the front and showcasing Bardo Martinez’s incredible range. The band is joined by Mariachi Flor de Toloache, who adds the smooth backing vocals for the track “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm),” a song which explores the vulnerabilities of our everyday relationships. Overall, their sound is more upbeat than their past records, with sun-soaked tracks like “Flecha Al Sol” providing a prime opportunity to forget it’s winter for a few minutes. Chicano Batman has always been known for effortlessly combining the old with the new, and Freedom is Free is a full two steps forward for the group, while still giving a hearty salute to the past.»