Yet even if The Waiting Room is his most conventional album to date, McIlwain hasn't entirely abandoned his more experimental airs. He still approaches the concept of a pop song like a scientist with a scalpel, and the most orthodox song here—a cover of Electronic's classic "Get the Message"—is also the least successful, a simplistic synth-pop reworking that pales against its source. His original songs are much better. Female voices are both more prevalent across the album and predominant in the mix than before, yet still work best when adding definition to the music rather than providing the main focus, whether they're hovering over the beats of "Without a Plan," rising alongside the synth line in "By This Sound," or flecked across the straight-up deep house track "Lucky."
Although nothing is above a pace you'd call perky, the strolling beats of "Another Tomorrow" sound confident and surefooted. But while McIlwain is operating within more rigid structures, another hangover from his ambient productions is that he can sometimes sound a bit directionless. "Stratus"'s rippling bleeps are by far the album's most kinetic moment, yet as the song builds without ever really dropping, it begins to feel less like mounting tension and more like someone that doesn't know where to go, ultimately just fading out. Far more effective are "Panoramic" and "February"—both of which come closest to dance floor abandon. Yet for all that the happiness The Waiting Room exudes, it seems more subtle and sedate than out-and-out euphoric.