I’m in a doctor’s waiting room and my bum hurts from sitting on an incredibly uncomfortable chair. It smells like plastic and old people in here. The big, digital clock above the doorframe seems to be ticking impatiently, but of course it isn’t, silly. It’s digital. I’ve been here for almost an hour, and somebody’s baby is crying next to me, the shrill sinking deep into my brain, like someone’s prying it open with a screwdriver. My mind is racing, and I’ve now seen all of Instagram. I put my headphones in and play Waiting Rooms by Maeve Aickin.
Maeve Aickin recorded her album in quarantine, between her bedroom and bathroom, after being diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. These two places become so real in the narrative; we can almost smell the bleached hospital beds, the splodgy, ready-made food, the solitude, like in ‘Noël’ (“I’m not well, Noël”). We can hear the beeping of electrocardiogram and cluttering of nurse’s trolley in the middle of the night in ‘Guilt’. Maeve plants in us feelings of dissociation with reverberating, lo-fi sounds of ‘Bug’ (“I used to get along with me alright, but now I’m not around”). We almost begin hearing voices echoing through oversized, empty corridors. The all-too-familiar feeling of zoning out whilst waiting for bad news, for diagnosis, for someone to tell us the reason we’re here, overthinking and involuntarily dreading what’s next.
Physical pain is seeping through every gossamer track, through soothing guitar and synth lines of ‘Furniture’ (“And I’m sorry I’m so hungry I’ve got a lot on my plate”) and ‘Medicine’ (“Toilet flush, getting used to how I look inside out”). This physical pain often brings thoughts of unrequited love and fear of what the future will be like, like in ‘Nowhere’ or ‘Harriett’, but also anger, exhaustion and loneliness in ‘Temple’ (“You say your body is a temple, do you know yet who you’re praying to?”). The uncertainty in Waiting Rooms weaves through the attempt to accept the illness, to embrace it. This attempt turns into a desperate call, the acapella prayer ‘Boring’, where the artist promises to abide with normality and even celebrate it, if the pain goes away.
I hear a lady on the speaker mispronounce my name and call me through to see a doctor. It’s time to go, and I regret having to stop yet another re-listen of Maeve Aickin’s Waiting Rooms. The last line I hear is — “And someone tells me the sick will be good for my songs”. I can honestly say it is, yes, and it makes Maeve’s songs so real, I will feel them under my skin for a long time.
Waiting Rooms is out now via Corkscrew Records.
Review by Aggie Jaworska