On Feb. 10, 2013, Kimbra walked onto the Staples Center stage and accepted a Grammy Award from Prince, who added his own seal of approval before reading the Recording Academy’s pick for record of the year.
“Oh, I love this song,” he said of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” the quirky pop hit by Gotye that featured Kimbra’s vocals and topped the Billboard Hot 100, eventually selling 7.7 million copies and racking up more than half a billion plays on YouTube.
Such a public endorsement by a music legend is the kind of moment a young artist might regard as a pivot point, an episode that set a course for triumphs to come. But a different day looms larger in Kimbra’s memory: the next one.
That’s when the New Zealand native moved into a rented Silver Lake property — a small farm, in her description, complete with sheep, a rooster and an outdoor stove set atop a tree stump.
“It was this strange little oasis,” she said recently. “Nature has always been something that gets me creative, and finally I felt centered again. That changed everything.”
Eighteen months later, the fruit of that creativity is revealed on Kimbra’s impressive new album, “The Golden Echo.” Released by Warner Bros. Records, it’s a boldly inventive pop experiment that moves from lush disco to sweaty R&B to crunching hard rock with the idiosyncratic logic of someone working in a makeshift home studio. Yet songs such as “Carolina” and “’90s Music” face outward too, their bright melodies as irresistible as their textures are beguiling.
“Kimbra is thick with thought, and that can sometimes challenge the ear,” said Van Dyke Parks, the veteran producer and arranger who devised the darting string parts in “As You Are.” “But she does whatever she can to bring some confection to it. She always makes it tasty.”
Born Kimbra Johnson, the 24-year-old grew up playing music in Hamilton, New Zealand. In 2008 she moved to Melbourne after signing a management deal and began work on what would become her debut album, “Vows.”
Full of sweetly off-kilter tunes reminiscent of the Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, the record sold well in Australia upon its release there in 2011.
“That’s a skill we’re losing a bit,” said Kimbra. “What if this record helps somebody do it?”