The Co$t of Life is the project name for electronic pop rock solo artist Jason Irving of Centennial, Colorado. He’s released a number of singles including his latest three: “Search The Night,” “Just Me & You” and “Anchor or Line.” Irving grew up near the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. Though he hoped for a career as a pro athlete, he found himself playing guitar after discovering Green Day, Offspring, Nirvana and ’90s techno music. His first guitar teacher was Chris Broderick who later played in Megadeth. Irving then formed the pop-punk band Suburbia’s Finest, releasing two albums and touring throughout Colorado. When the band broke up, Irving went to college, joined the Army, started a family and found a new career in finance. However his musical ambitions never went away. In 2022 Irving became familiar with the newest recording technologies, and called his project The Co$t of Life. He hopes that his new songs “address the important issues affecting individuals and society as a whole today, and offer hope in challenging times.” Irving posits that his single “Search the Night” is like Synthwave or the music in Stranger Things. For a guy who started as more of a punk guitarist, it’s interesting that this track starts with a literal wall of synths and digital sounds and rarely diverts from that. There’s a thunky electronic beat and lots of phasing. Irving’s vocals are also treated (though not to excess) and it’s interesting to hear his radio-friendly voice singing atop all the buzzes and pulses. This is the kind of song where it’s hard to know where verse and chorus begin, as the beats themselves are formed of surging chords and melodies; the variations are all in the arrangements and the mixing. Thematically it could be both a love song or an ode to an alien presence glimpsed in the night. Both of those work for me! “Just You and Me” is a song about a breaking up and missing your ex-lover (as Irving notes: we’ve all been there!). He calls it a “Pop-’80s guitar/synth song” and features his wife Allison on second-lead vocals. This track has another churning, propulsive drum track but features lots of guitar along with the synths. The Mr. and Ms. create some beautiful, otherworldly harmonies atop the funky, chunky guitars. I might even call this dream pop, thanks to the constantly shifting bed of phased whooshes. It does end a bit abruptly, though. The final track “Anchor or Line” is described by Irving as “an electronic post pop-punk song inspired by my thoughts on current society.” Not quite punk by my reckoning, I’d call it a version of rap, as Irving uses the verses as a bully pulpit to read off his lyrics at double speed. For the choruses, Irving changes tack completely for echo-drenched harmonies and celestial synths. I actually prefer these sections as the rap sections feel a bit strident. Irving clearly has the goods to realize his long-held musical ambitions and these three tracks show the great diversity of his talent. Great stuff!