Although they didn't have an official name back then, the quintet of The Year Of first worked together on "Take Your Time," the epic 45-minute track that comprised the second disc of B. Fleischmann's excellent Welcome Tourist. After that effort, they all went their separate ways again for awhile before finding time to start recording some new material again.
Much more organic-sounding than the aforementioned track that they first teamed up on, Slow Days sounds more like the work of a fairly straightforward pop group. Christof Kurzmann finds himself back on vocal duties, and the largely mid-tempo tracks are accented with lots of vibraphone and a smattering of electronic effects, giving the disc a slightly Chicago-influenced (think Tortoise and Sea And Cake) feel.
Unfortunately, in large part the album is so safe and smooth sounding that it fails to really grab on a variety of levels. The opener of "Mantra" is all muffled drum machines, soft horns and guitar plucks, but only becomes something interesting with a minute left to go (and then it ends). "There's Something About You" is even more bland, with fragile vocals from Kurzmann playing out over completely generic country-tinged backing instrumentation. After the slightly rocking "Stephen Hawking," they manage to get things going a bit with some electronic shuffle beats and nice guitar work in "Alone," but lose momentum again on the completely unfocused "Bees Be."
The group is at their best when they break away from both traditional song structures and the more straight-up band feel. The nearly 15-minute "Calling Sky" opens with shifty programmed beats and subtle programming before morphing into a deconstructed middle section and finally into a rocking second half that brings in squealing horns and a serpentine bass line. Sadly, the album ends with the dreary "Sleep" and an uninspired and unnecessary reworking of an earlier track (guess which one) entitled "Ronnie Hawkins." When they're at their best, The Year Of create some great work, but at other points they're kinda bland.