"Heirloom" is an economical title for a Sufjan Stevens song, and it's the shortest tune on his surprise All Delighted People EP. Across its three minutes, a few acoustic guitars intertwine. There's a little harp on the bridge, some airy background vocals, and, at the center, Sufjan's voice and words. It's a simple song, relatively speaking. It doesn't sound like the showy, winged return of a guy who's done everything over the last five years except make a proper follow-up album to his towering Illinois. "Heirloom" is like Sufjan showing up to your apartment unannounced, saying "hi," playing a few songs, saying "thanks," and then leaving without explanation. There's a lingering effect.
The song is about those times "when your mourning has a sound." Like before, he draws human hurt with unending empathy, acting as both a translator and best friend. And just when you think it's time to start praying at Sufjan's altar once again, he questions his own saintliness: "So do you think I came to fight? / And do I always think I'm right? / Oh no I never meant to be a pest to anyone this time / Oh no I only meant to be a friend to everyone this time." Not even Sufjan can please everyone, always. On "Heirloom," he doesn't try to.