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Release date: March 21, 2011
Photography: Lamar Taylor, Drop
Art direction: Ben Swantek
Label: None

Abel Tesfaye got things stirring back in 2011 when he released his first mixtape House of Balloons. He was anonymous, but a bit over the top, posting nude, scratched photos of women to his Tumblr page, and once in a while, he would appear for a moment as someone turned the camera around.

One of these images would end up being the cover for House of Balloons—a startling, just-this-side-of-graphic photo of a naked woman in a bathtub, covered in balloons. Sure, the photo itself was alarming and powerful, but it was the overall design of the album that really pushed this one over the top. The typography, the tracklisting on the cover, and the stark white borders all give a sense of a classic album cover while the music inside was incredibly forward-thinking. —Dale Eisinger