Standout Track: No. 6, “Julia,” a sorrowful waltz featuring Kyle Evans, 25, singing like an old man reminiscing about a young love. Only a quiet acoustic guitar and a melodica adorn the wistful lyrics: “My canter, your stride, as the fire slowly dies/We’ll dance, we’ll dance, Julia.”

Musical Motivation: Evans’ creative reserves hit empty midway through recording Forever Ruth. “I was working odd hours in the basement, there were extension cords everywhere—it was just a total disaster,” he says. To get away from the chaos, Evans headed to Morocco with two roommates from his Columbia Heights group house. On a layover in Paris, at 4 a.m., the friends happened upon an old man playing a melodica in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. “The sound of it just really resonated with me,” says Evans.

The singer continued on to Morocco, but that reedy tune had lodged in his mind. One day, as he sat watching a fire burn in Marrakech’s city square, inspiration struck. In an hour, he’d penned a song about a woman waltzing against the backdrop of a burning movie set.

DEUS EX MELODICA: Though Evans worried that the soothing song would put audiences to sleep, “Julia” turned out to be a crowd favorite during his band’s recent East Coast tour. He gives all the credit to the melodica, an ungainly instrument that looks like a cross between a keyboard and a kazoo. “We like to call it the dork-o-phone,” he says. “When we bust that out, everyone yells and screams and hoots and hollers.” —Sadie Dingfelder