Early birds at the Devendra Banhart show in January and at the Cat Power show in February were lucky enough to be thunderstruck by a way-early opener whose endearing eccentricity matched the hyped headliners neatly. Newsom is a Mills College undergrad and keyboardist for art-rockers the Pleased, but when she does her solo thing, she's like a ballerina unleashed from inside your little sister's music box, long after it has been buried by books and forgotten. Having a crush on Joanna Newsom is like having a crush on your own lost sense of childish wonder. Though her crackling coo of a voice immediately brings Björk to mind, her vocal approach is far less histrionic, much more delicately nuanced, all the better to wrap carefully around her expansive, often esoteric vocabulary. And if your only exposure to the harp has been the Marx Brothers and New Age folderol, the teeny Newsom's self-sufficient punk-to-precious golden shimmer must be heard to be believed. And she manages to pull off a haircut that hasn't been worn well since Wings went off the air.
Readers' Pick: Robyn Spitzer