From Kylie to Kelly Clarkson, the Christmas pop album has become as synonymous with this time of year as mince pies and pre-midday mulled wine (just us?).
Of course, festive musical forays can often feel more like an empty stocking than a visit from Santa, but thankfully singer-songwriter John Galea’s Yuletide offering falls firmly into the latter category.
Christmas Round the Piano might include three classic songs alongside three bouncy new tracks, but the six-track puts enough fresh spins on well-worn festive fare to keep the magical energy alive throughout.
Soulful opener quickly establishes the tone of classic sounds with a twist as it serves reassuring brass, sleigh bells, slick vocals and – like all the best Christmas music – an underlying sense of melancholy as John reflects on a love lost.
Another, 'Hero Within You' sees Galea team up with Guildhall-trained Operatic sensation Hannah Long for a classically-styled ballad which would stand up perfectly even without the sprinkling of sleigh bells.
Lead single ‘A Simple Christmas’ ramps up the joy: an irrepressibly perky pop number about the joys of family and friends, you’ll be shimmying away a third of the way its infectious chorus gets its hooks in.
It also fits perfectly alongside the recently-released video, which features a nice bisexual twist in the form of a hunky man arriving on the doorstep on Christmas Day. If only it were so easy...
Meanwhile, John's takes on Christmas classics inject enough personality and originality to avoid becoming mere filler: A mournful take on 'O Holy Night' offers some reflective shade among all the (fairy) lights, while 'O Lejl Ta' Skiet' - a cover of 'Silent Night' sung in Maltese - is an authentically fresh take on a track you might not have thought had much more to offer.
Only as a full blitz of festive euphoria descends during a full-throttle cover of 'Joy to the World' do things begin to veer off the rails slightly, but it's a very minor quibble on an EP that manages to avoid falling in the overly-saccharine trappings of the season.