There seems to be a high tide of young, female singer-songwriters rising everywhere, and Joanna Newsom is another wonderful example of it, a young woman making intelligent, daring and emotionally honest music -others I'm thinking of and recommend wholeheartedly are Laura Veirs, from Seattle, Jolie Holland, and UK's own Polly Paulusma.
Newsom, in addition to her abilities as a composer, is an accomplished harpist, which she showcases very appropriately throughout this -her debut- album. To me, at least, it's interesting how an instrument so seldom used sounds so beautifully fitting and gives the songs included here such distinct and soulful touch.
One thing I've found somewhat misleading, after having heard this album, is the several references I read about her music being described as "psych-folk." If you have read such comments too, I suggest you think of her as some sort of descendant of Donovan or Vashti Bunyan: someone capable, as those mentioned were, of creating wondrous worlds through her lyrics and enchanting moods with her melodies.
The only element that, I believe, is worth cautioning you about is her voice, that in certain songs -definitely not all- may bring to mind what Mojo Magazine depicted as a young girl trying to sound like an old woman, and which I'll describe as reminiscent of Melanie circa Woodstock. This, at first listening it took me a certain getting used to.
All in all, Joanna Newsom is another singular new voice coming out of the same talented scene that has given us Devendra Banhart and the group Vetiver, fellow artists hailing from San Francisco and making music just as wonderfully theirs and impressively mature already, as "Milk-Eyed Mender."