Singer/songwriter Thea Gilmore is an ambitious lass on her third album, Rules for Jokers. She boldly moves beyond the rock edges of The Lipstick Conspiracies for a confident, folk-rock appeal and it works magnificently. Acoustic guitars are ablaze throughout, giving Rules for Jokers a tough stance without much aggression. Lyrically, Gilmore is a complete artist. Her depictions of deception, sex, religion, and politics are richly textured in balladry. The daring and lustful "This Girl Is Taking Bets" dances around rockabilly/country jigs while "St. Luke's Summer" creeps along with Gilmore's hollowed vocals. "Benzedrine" is Rules for Jokers' shiny pop song; cellos and chimes accent crashing percussion for a dazzling look into self-perception. For a woman who's barely out of her teens, Gilmore sings with a weathered conviction, and it's mind-blowing. Rules for Jokers reflects upon trials and tribulations one may face, but without vengeance and bitterness. Gilmore sharply shapes it into something tangible without relying on massive production to heighten the album's overall punch.
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson