I imagine there's many a bar stool in both Matthew Houck's hometown of Alabama, and now Brooklyn, worn and eroded perfectly around his outline to accommodate his presence as naturally as any other piece of tired furniture, pristine in their authenticity. Where last orders is at the mercy of his magnetic persona and wicked grin, and soaked in muses and moonshine, his ever-more lucid faction drift to the glow of the nearest sunrise. When his hard-living, Southern staunch and rustic composition feels so authentic, it's hard not to romanticise.

Though by all accounts, not least his own, the record's gestation did not wholly adhere to such a natural image. Physically and mentally exhausted from the production and promotion of the last Phosphorescent album, (perhaps ironically in the circumstances titled) Here's to Taking it Easy, with its impressive commitment to beer-dripping country balladry, the existence of this album was by no means a certain development. Much of the beauty of his previous output was its mystic distilling of some aged barrel, and were it not for a week spent in a beach hut on the Yucatan Peninsula, it might have been a well tragically run dry.

So fittingly, and as ever, it's a record from a wrecked perspective – metaphorically, narcotically, psychologically. Though its stepping forward feels clear; a watershed moment sonically, in its reference to Houck's troubadouring tradition, and purified collective of the essence of previous albums, but most prominently in its tone. Its feel is of daybreak creeping through the curtains, and its desperation and frustration refracted through a melancholic depthlessness, framed by daylight rather than dark. The sun even gets name checked in the invocations that bookend the record.

Mucacho opens proper with 'Song For Zula', the breathtaking elegy that served as the album's first taster. It's a truly remarkable effort, a heartbreaking hymnal that manages to be simultaneously elusive and intimate, both majestic in its scale, and enervating in the weight of its emotion. It's a raw beauty, borne of devastating experience, but intensely catharsis in its wistful knowingness. It's a difficult one to follow. But even if the whoops and wah-wah of 'Ride On/Right On' might have evaded cliché elsewhere, they certainly wilt in the shadow of a definite contender for one of the songs of the year.

But with 'Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master)', Houck settles into the groove of Muchacho's three-dimensional, widescreen focus, richly textured and exuding a luminescent glow. It's a record that meanders in and out of focus, dense in its natural imagery of devils, lions, river, canyons, beasts. Never allowing itself to be too comfortable with itself, or with any kind of spotlight, it's never too glamorous an outing from Houck's shadowy niches, but does allow a tentative toe out into the open from the darkened forest. Houck spoke of the album's title (translated young man) as being a sharp put-down for someone "getting uppity" that needs putting in their place. Rather than biting, Mucacho's mission feels like Houck's wry look at himself, built from the bottom up, and imbued with all the dregs along the way, but yearning for positivity, and a tranquil comfort. Indeed, 'Mucacho's Tune', reportedly the first track penned for the album, ruminates on its country bumble and the refrain – "fix myself up, come and be with you." It's a trope of fucking up, and fixing up that's cut through the whole narrative. .

This stark honesty is much of the appeal of Muchacho, a record that finds that some things might be past fixing, but always comfortable in the knowledge that there's another sunrise on the way. Its melancholy is never wallowing, and more redemptive in its optimism, that every loss might act as an ephemeral sting in a greater composite whole – a formative notch rather than a fracturing blow. It's an outlook we all might remember on a hungover Sunday – Houck gives the impression he's seen a few more than us.