Briana Younger

This essay is one in a series celebrating deserving artists or albums not included on NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums By Women.

"Architectural designer" has to land pretty high on the list of unexpected day jobs for musicians, but that's the world singer-songwriter Anne Dereaux traverses. Dereaux began her journey in architecture in pursuit of a career path that would be deemed professional and acceptable but that would still fulfill her creative inclinations. Through college, her passion for singing pulled her in another direction — but she's never had to choose between the two. Nothing goes to waste when one career somewhat informs the other.

Ritual and pop aren't usually words that are associated with each other, but "ritual pop" is how Francine Thirteen describes her music and message. "Lust Heals, Give Me My Sin Again" is a meditative take on the Bible's creation story, mastered by the legendary Dave Cooley (J Dilla, M83, Madlib).

A shrewd lyricist and observer, Oddisee has always been steadfast in his quest to expose uncomfortable truths — some that he's faced as an artist and others he's faced as a Sudanese-American Muslim. In "Things," the lead single from his forthcoming album The Iceberg, he delivers a bit of both, but this time the stakes seem a little higher.

In the opening line of "Grass (Survivor's Guilt)," Topaz Jones declares he's "found love — a great distraction from checking the evening news and staying up on what's happening." Coming from someone whose father was a guitarist and whose mother was an activist, it feels like a mission statement.

Anderson .Paak is at his best when he's making music that reflects its own genealogy. In his marriage of R&B and rap, he conjures the sounds of bygone eras while simultaneously forging the path of what could happen next. His latest release, the aptly titled Yes Lawd!, is a collaborative effort with producer Knxwledge — together they form NxWorries.